October 21 2014 Latest news:
by Imogen Blake
Monday, September 2, 2013
New figures have shown that Haringey and Barnet were some of the worst-affected areas of the capital for rates of tuberculosis, while Camden falls well below the London average.
London has been named the “tuberculosis (TB) capital” of western Europe after government body Public Health England reported the city had 42 cases for every 100,000 people – the highest rate of the airborne disease of any western European capital.
The national average occurrence of the disease, which is very contagious and attacks the lungs, is 14 cases per 100,000.
Rates of TB have stabilised nationally since the mid-2000s, following increases in the previous two decades. However, despite considerable efforts to improve prevention, treatment and control, experts say rates of TB in London are now “worryingly high”.
Camden falls well below the average London rate with 62 cases of TB recorded in 2012, which is a rate of 28 cases per 100,000 people.
This is still nearly twice the national average, but outer London boroughs Haringey and Barnet were some of the worst-affected areas in the city.
Barnet had 110 cases in 2012, or 31 per 100,000 people, and 101 people contracted TB in Haringey, the highest rate of the three boroughs at 39.6 cases per 100,000 people.
Haringey Council said the high number of TB cases is mainly because of migrants moving into the borough from countries with a high incidence of the disease.
It also suggests that improved detection rates for the disease have contributed to the rise in cases.
Coordinator of Defend Haringey’s Health Services Janet Shapiro said: “Overcrowding, the large mobile population and not having a steady GP are three factors that need to be investigated and this should be done urgently.”
Experts say that Camden has a high rate of tuberculosis because of the large number of homeless people sleeping rough within the borough.
Dr Al Story screens 10,000 people every year for TB and hepatitis as clinical leader of the Find and Treat service, a social outreach team based at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Euston.
“TB is a social disease, particularly present among homeless people,” he said. “Camden has a high proportion of London’s homeless population and we’ve been working flat out in Camden for years,” he added.
Dr Story believes the most important way of controlling tuberculosis is through early identification and treatment of cases.
The Find and Treat screening service can screen someone in two minutes and provide results on the spot.
The service’s only mobile unit, which has 300,000 miles on its clock, visits soup kitchens, hostels, day centres and drug treatment services in Camden and across London to find cases and treat people quickly.
A Camden Council spokesman said: “Camden is now substantially below the London average rate of 42 per 100,000 case of TB. We will continue to work to reduce any future cases in the borough.”