New figures showing that the rate of tuberculosis (TB) in Birmingham Hall Green is five the national average have been described as “deeply concerning” by local MP Roger Godsiff.
Although often considered to have been eliminated, TB remains the world’s second deadliest infectious disease, killing 1.3 million people in 2012. The disease doesn’t only affect the developing world: the UK has the highest rates of TB in Western Europe.
The national average for the UK is 13.9 cases per 100,000 of the population. The rate in Birmingham Hall Green is 72.4 per 100,000.
Roger stated that the figures are of particular concern given that a small, but growing, proportion of cases are drug-resistant. Cases of drug-resistant TB can take two years to treat, requiring patients to take an average of 14,000 pills and costing local health services tens of thousands of pounds.
Roger wants to ensure that people are aware of the risk of TB and of some of the symptoms, which can include: a persistent cough, night sweats, a high temperature and a lack of appetite or weight loss.
“Most people in the UK think that TB is a disease of the past, but the number of cases of the disease in the UK has doubled in the last decade”, Roger said. “It’s important that people are aware of the threat posed by the disease, and that they make sure they go to a doctor if they experience symptoms.”
Public Health England is currently developing a national strategy to fight TB, but it is also important to reach out to the most vulnerable parts of the community and make sure that everyone understands the importance of diagnosing and treating the disease as early as possible.
The Birmingham health authority has a rate of 37.6 TB cases per 100,000. In comparison London’s average is 42, Public Health England’s definition of a high risk area stands at 40, and the UK average is 13.9 cases per 100,000.