Ruislip Residents' Association

Tuberculosis in London

The guest speaker at the June 2016 meeting of The Community Voice was Dr Onkar Sahota, London Assembly Member for Ealing and Hillingdon, and Chairman of the Assembly’s Health Committee.  He is a part-time GP in Southall.  The main points of his address were:-

  • The London Assembly covers 32 Boroughs.
  • A 2015 report on Tuberculosis (TB) states that London is the “capital of TB” because of the high incidence of the disease – 7 cases diagnosed per day.
  • The risk factors for TB are associated with people who are in poor health and whose immune system is compromised, often living in overcrowded conditions, such as the elderly, those suffering with HIV and the prison population.
  • TB cannot be spread by day to day activities of work and travel.
  • The belief that TB is brought into the country by immigration is false, but it may be that immigrants have been living in the cramped conditions which manifest the disease.
  • TB is a bacterial infection which affects the lungs, gut and bones.
  • Symptoms of the disease are tiredness, weight loss and blood in the sputum.
  • The disease can be latent – those having been infected in the past with no symptoms can become active if their auto immunity is compromised - this applies to 10-30% of cases.
  • Treatment is prolonged – 28 tablets daily for 6 months with various side effects, which must be completed for the full benefit of the drugs.
  • Patients not only suffer from the disease, but also from the effects of the drugs and isolation from friends and family.  TB is still globally shunned.
  • Prevention is important :-
a. An intra-dermal BCG immunisation is often given to new babies within 24 hours of birth, but this does not give lifelong protection.  The availability varies from Borough to Borough.
b. Good housing conditions, fresh air, good diet and good general fitness all help to aid prevention.
c. WHO is researching a long term vaccine.
d. A scheme by University College Hospital goes out to help the homeless and treats those found to be infected.  This needs to be implemented across London.
e. Hackney Borough in London has a TB Centre where patients are monitored while taking their medication.
f. London is looking at screening prisoners on admission and carrying out treatment where necessary.
Unfortunately each Borough works independently and the London Assembly has no power to make them conform.

Published in London Issues on 05 July 2016. Updated on 18 July 2016
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