Number of cases of TB on increase in East End says report

THE NUMBER of cases of tuberculosis are increasing in Tower Hamlets along with those across London according to figures released today.

According to the Health Protection Annual TB report London has or 3,440 (38 per cent) of all 9,040 cases of TB in the UK.

The capital also has 50 per cent of the cases which are resistant to first line drug treatment and 59 per cent of all cases which are hard to treat with multi-drug treatments.

The report shows that In Tower Hamlets there were an average of 143 cases of TB each year from 2007 to 2009, up on 126 cases between 2004 and 2006, and an average of 111 cases each year from 2001 to 2003.

The figures put Tower Hamlets in the top ten primary care trusts in London for the number of cases of TB.

All newborn babies under one are given protection from TB with the BCG inoculation and children who have moved to Tower Hamlets from areas with a high risk of TB are assessed to see if they need the jab.

Dr Helen Maguire, an expert in TB trends for the Health Protection Agency in London, said:

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“Although the proportion of drug resistant TB cases in London remains thankfully low overall, and multi-drug resistant cases only accounted for 34 out of 3,440 total cases in 2009, we are seeing an upward trend emerge. The rate for multi-drug resistance had been stable in London for the past decade but last year’s data shows this concerning spike.

“The groups of people most at risk in London from drug resistance include the homeless, young adults and non-UK born people. There are higher levels of drug resistance circulating globally in recent years and young people are more affected because new infections, which account for most drug resistant cases, are more common in young people, as opposed to the reactivation of a TB infection.”

She added: “TB is a major public health problem in the capital and increasing resistance to first-line drugs is a real issue as more drugs are needed to treat it and the course of treatment needs to be prolonged. Delays in diagnosis must be avoided especially among hard-to-reach groups such as the homeless. Our healthcare services need to support people with complex needs to successfully complete treatment and prevent onward transmission of drug-resistant TB.”

The symptoms of TB include fever and night sweats, a persistent cough, weight loss and blood in the phlegm or spit.

Treatments of TB is very effective but it can be life threatening if undiagnosed and the HPA advises people to see a doctor if they think they have the illness.