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Newham residents urged to join the fight against tuberculosis

13:13 23 March 2016

Tuberculosis screening is advised as a means of discovering latent forms of the disease                       Picture: PA Images/Andrew Milligan

Tuberculosis screening is advised as a means of discovering latent forms of the disease Picture: PA Images/Andrew Milligan

PA/Press Association Images

It may be a battle you thought we won many years ago, but one of the most lethal diseases in human history is alive and well.

Essayist, novelist, anti-fascist militiaman and foe of Stalinism George Orwell, who died from tuberculosis in 1950                 Picture: PAEssayist, novelist, anti-fascist militiaman and foe of Stalinism George Orwell, who died from tuberculosis in 1950 Picture: PA

Tuberculosis remains epidemic across large parts of the world and, despite its Victorian connotations, is on the rise in the UK – with Newham the worst-affected place in the country.

That’s why health professionals – and Newham Council – are hoping to mark World Tuberculosis Day tomorrow by enlisting residents in the struggle to defeat the deadly infection which claimed the lives of George Orwell, Franz Kafka and Edward VI of England

Dr Prakash Chandra, GP and chairman of Newham CCG, said: “The most effective way to prevent the spread of TB is by diagnosing people as soon as possible and making sure they have a full course of correct treatment.

“That’s why we’re inviting at-risk residents to be screened for latent TB when they register with a GP. If positive, they can then be treated by their local pharmacist before TB has a chance to become active.”

Dr Chandra added that the programme was the first of its kind and implored residents to attend a screening if they are invited.

Latent TB is when a person has the bacteria in their body but does not show any symptoms and does not feel unwell.

A person with latent TB cannot pass the infection on and it can be treated with a course of antibiotics – however, if untreated, a sufferer can become ill with active TB later on, which is contagious.

Screening, which the council began in April 2015, has already found 1,300 people with latent TB and 14 with active TB.

The council said it is also tackling poor housing conditions in the borough, which can be a lead cause of disease.

“We are committed to reducing the rates of TB in the borough,” Cllr Clive Furness, mayor advisor for adults and health, said.

“It is a serious disease but can be tackled quickly and effectively with modern medicines.

“We are also committed to reducing the reasons leading to the spread of TB, which is why we are aggressively tackling overcrowding and poor housing.”

As part of the awareness raising programme the council and Newham CCG will be hosting a stall outside Primark in High Street North, East Ham, between 10am and 2pm tomorrow.

In addition, University of East London students are planning to join health professionals and members of the community at Queen’s Market, in Green Street, Upton Park on Thursday, April 24 to raise awareness about the disease.

“Creating a space to talk about TB and sharing the right information about symptoms, transmission and treatment can reduce stigma and get people on the road to recovery sooner,” Julie Botticello, lecturer in public health at UEL, said.

She added that “myths and misconceptions” about the disease “perpetuate” suffering.

“Our message will be that TB is curable and treatable,” she said.

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