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Strategy needed to combat London’s TB crisis

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TB is widespread in London, with rates higher than TB is widespread in London, with rates higher than many developing nations

A major effort to raise awareness of tuberculosis (TB) in London is needed to combat the condition, after a report by the London General Assembly found that some areas have higher rates than many developing nations.

The report, Tackling TB in London, found over 2500 new cases of TB in London in 2014, making up approximately 40% of all cases in the UK. One third of London’s boroughs exceeded the World Health Organization ‘high incidence’ threshold of 40 cases per 100,000. Some boroughs have incidence levels as high as 113 per 100,000 people, which is significantly higher than countries such as Rwanda, Algeria, Iraq and Guatemala. It identified Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow and Newham as high-risk boroughs in the capital.

‘TB rates in London remain are the highest in Western Europe and to achieve further decreases and reduce inequalities associated with the disease, we will ensure that TB control remains our priority,’ a Public Health England spokesperson said.

A survey performed to examine attitudes towards TB found that one in five Londoners said that they do not know what the symptoms of TB are. Over half of respondents (56%) thought TB was transmitted through spitting while 17% of survey respondents thought that TB could be spread through unprotected sex. Another 43% said that they would be worried if they had to tell their employer they had TB.

‘It is astounding that TB is such a prevalent disease in London and that misconceptions about the disease are so common,’ Dr Onkar Sahota, chair of the Health Committee of the London General Assembly said. ‘We know TB disproportionately affects prisoners, homeless people and people with substance abuse issues, and high quality TB care services are not universally available to all Londoners.’

However, there was a little bit of good news. ‘London has seen a reduction in the number of TB cases for the third year in a row and drug resistant cases are also down,’ said the PHE spokesman. ‘This is a credit to the hard work going
into tackling this disease.’

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