People residing in parts of London are at a higher risk of contracting tuberculosis than people in Rwanda or Iraq. More than a third of its boroughs have seen more than 40 incidents of the disease in 100,000 people, the London Assembly has said in a report. Some wards like Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow and Newham see 150 cases per 100,000 people. The highest rate of 107 cases was registered in Newham.
The report says, people with substance abuse issues, prisoners, refugees and migrants were particularly at risk of contracting TB. Assuming that tuberculosis was a disease of migrants is erroneous, the report adds, given that the disease has increased among UK-born Londoners and fallen among the non-UK-born.
As the cost of treating tuberculosis can touch £500,000 per patient, the London Assembly wants Mayor Boris Johnson to educate people on the disease. It also suggests that the Mayor and Greater London Authority create a fund for a "find and treat" service, while at the same time use the Team London volunteer network for the benefit of the TB community.
A survey conducted by the London Assembly showed more than half of the respondents thought spitting could transmit the disease. In reality, the disease spreads when people have a close and prolonged contact with someone who is constantly coughing and sneezing. "Prevention is poor and awareness low, even among the medical profession itself," Dr Onkar Sahota, the chair of the Assembly's health committee, was quoted as saying by the BBC. He added that treatment for drug-resistant strains of the disease is "expensive, complicated and terribly gruelling. The quality of care for TB sufferers also varies across the capital."
The report said it is "unacceptable that children are put at risk of developing a potentially life-threatening illness on the basis of which borough they are born in", while pointing to the fact that out of a total of 24 boroughs in London, eight do not offer the BCG vaccine to children, which is used in treating the disease. The capital's approach to tackling the disease is "fragmented", the report said.
According to the World Health Organization's 2013 report, Rwanda had 69 cases of TB for 100,000 people, while in Iraq the number was 45. The average rate per 100,000 in the UK was 13.