Parts of London have higher TB rates than Rwanda and Iraq

The London Assembly health committee has made recommendations to lower TB rates in the capital

Parts of London have rates of tuberculosis (TB) higher than countries such as Rwanda, Iraq and Guatemala, an investigation for the London Assembly has revealed.

More than 2,500 new cases of the disease were identified in the capital last year, which together accounted for 40% of total cases in the UK.

The borough of Newham had the highest rate at 107 new cases per 100,000 people, compared with only 45 in Iraq.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines any number over 40 as having crossed the ‘high incidence’ threshold.

The rate of infection among UK-born Londoners has risen, while among non-UK-born Londoners it has fallen.

Members of the London Assembly health committee published the findings today in a report called Tackling TB in London, in which they make 11 recommendations.

These include NHS London setting out how it will ensure universal coverage of the BCG vaccine which is recommended for all babies born in London across all the capital's boroughs by 2017. 

Other recommendations include funding an education programme, using Team London volunteers as TB champions in the community and greater screening in prisons where inmates are identified as being most at risk of being infected.

The health committee's chairman Onkar Sahota said: ‘Many Londoners will be surprised to hear that TB still exists in the capital.

‘Many more will be shocked to learn that London has been described as the TB capital of western Europe.

‘It is not a disease of a bygone era. In London, around seven people develop symptoms of TB every day.’

A survey commissioned for the report showed that one in five Londoners (18%) do not know what the symptoms of TB are, when presented with a list.

More than half of respondents (56%) thought TB was transmitted through spitting – which is untrue, yet widely believed.

As many as 17% of respondents thought that TB can be transmitted through unprotected sex, and more than two in five (43%) agreed that they would be worried if they had to tell their employer they had TB.

The report is available here

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