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World TB Day - Uniting to end TB

World TB Day - Uniting to end TB
23 March 2017

Newham Council, NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group and Barts Health NHS Trust are calling on residents to help them continue fighting back against the levels of tuberculosis (TB) in the borough.

While the most recently published figures, revealed by Public Health England in the ‘Tuberculosis in London Review’ earlier this month highlighted Newham still had the highest rates of TB in the country the borough had seen a 32 per cent drop in its TB rate between 2011 and 2015.

The council, NHS Newham CCG, Barts Health and other partners remain committed to tackling this issue and are again using World TB Day, on Friday 24 March, to raise awareness of the steps being taken to combat TB in the borough.

TB is a fully treatable disease and TB control can prevent further cases through prompt diagnosis, treatment completion and contact tracing. TB can either be latent or active. It is a bacterial infection spread by breathing in tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of someone with active TB. People have to spend prolonged periods, normally over eight hours of close contact, with someone with active TB to catch the infection.

If you have lived in a country where TB is common there is about a 1 in 4 chance that you have breathed in TB bacteria which are now ‘asleep’ in your body. These sleeping TB bacteria, known as latent TB, can ‘wake-up’ at any time and make you ill. The good news is that latent TB can be treated with antibiotics before this happens.

You can still develop latent or active TB after you had a BCG vaccination. Chest x-rays cannot see latent TB so you could have latent TB even if you had a clear chest x-ray.

 Partners across Newham are working together to tackle the disease and dispel some of the myths surrounding it. This includes:

  • providing free GP screening and treatment of new patients at risk of latent TB. Since this initiative started in 2014, we have screened over 8,000 patients, identifying 1,862 cases of positive latent TB
  • patients can choose treatment from one of the 15 local CCG accredited pharmacist that is most accessible to them
  • improving housing conditions through the council’s private rented licensing scheme – poorly managed houses of multiple occupation are one of the main causes of the spread of TB. Since the scheme started the council has carried out more than 1,500 prosecutions and cautions of landlords for poor conditions and overcrowding
  • all babies born in Newham are eligible for the BCG vaccination, with the borough having the highest rate in the country for immunising babies against TB. Information on the vaccination will be given to women by the midwives in antenatal clinics. Some children in Newham are eligible for the vaccine, so please contact your GP for details

As part of the awareness raising programme the council, NHS Newham CCG and Barts NHS Health Trust are hosting an awareness raising event at East Ham Library on Friday (24 March) between 10am-1pm.  The event will feature a presentation from a specialist TB nurse, an interactive performance from UEL students and a question and answer session on TB.

Those most at risk of catching TB are those who:

  • live in, come from, or have spent time – for example on holiday or business – in a country or area with high levels of TB. According to the World Health Organisation 60 per cent of TB cases worldwide occurred in six countries in 2015 – China; India; Pakistan, Nigeria, South Africa; Indonesia
  • have prolonged close contact with someone who is infected
  • live in crowded conditions – with multiple people sleeping in one room
  • have a condition that weakens the immune system, or are very young or very old
  • are receiving treatments that weaken the immune system, such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy
  • in poor health or with a poor diet because of lifestyle and other problems, such as drug misuse, alcohol misuse, or homelessness.

Patients are advised to speak to their GP receptionist if they want to find out more about latent TB screening or have any concerns. GP services are free and confidential.

Councillor Clive Furness, mayoral advisor for adults and health, said: "It is a serious disease but one that modern medicine can tackle quickly and effectively.

“TB requires prolonged exposure to an infected person to be passed on meaning overcrowding in houses can contribute to its spread. This is why one of the ways we are helping to fight the disease is through tackling overcrowding and poor housing.

“The level of TB in the borough is something that we together with our partners, including the NHS Newham CCG and Barts Health NHS Trust, are working hard to tackle and continue to bring down. This is why initiatives like World TB Day are important in helping to further raise awareness of the disease and the steps being taken to combat TB in the borough.”

Dr Prakash Chandra, local GP and chair of NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (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 have been working hard to ensure at risk residents are 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. If you are invited to be screened for latent TB, please do make sure that you take up this opportunity or if you have any concerns or suspect any symptoms, please contact your GP.”

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