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Working together to tackle TB

Health professionals and Reading Council officers in Reading have joined forces to support a global campaign aimed at tackling TB.

The Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), TB nurses from the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Reading Borough Council have teamed up to organise a special event to mark World TB Day and to highlight the importance of immunisation.

TB nurses and other health professionals will be hosting an information day at Whitley Health and Social Care Centre on 22 March from 10am to 12noon . They’ll be answering questions about how to spot the signs of TB and what to do if you’re worried.

World TB Day (24th March) is an annual initiative to raise awareness and understanding of TB, encourage people to come forward for screening and encourage BCG vaccination for eligible babies and children. Free health screening is available in Reading for people recently arrived in the UK who have been living in high incidence TB countries.

TB is caused by bacteria which can affect any part of the body but, most commonly, the lungs. It can be infectious but can be cured by taking treatment. Early detection of active TB infection and tracing those who may have been in contact is vitally important in the fight against the disease, as well as identifying those with latent (sleeping) TB.

Sleeping TB is where a person may feel quite well and display no symptoms but may be carrying a sleeping TB infection. Around one third of the world’s population has sleeping TB. People can be at risk even if they have had a clear/normal chest x-ray, and even if they have had a BCG vaccination, as this does not protect for life.
Each year TB Awareness Day has a theme and this year’s is ‘It’s Time’. There are four strands to this message:

  • It’s time to keep the promises on TB made at a UN summit last year
  • It’s time for a world without TB
  • It’s time to treat 40million people who will be affected by TB by 2022
  • It’s time to know your own TB status

Dr Kajal Patel from Berkshire West CCG said: “Latest figures show there are around 7,000 new cases of TB a year in the UK – that’s up from around 5,000 in the 1980s. And whilst most people will never encounter TB, it’s important everyone knows the symptoms, how it is spread, how it is treated and also understands the risk it poses to themselves and their families.

“Our awareness event in Whitley gives people a chance to come and talk to our TB nurses who are specialists and can answer any questions and give information and reassurance to people.”

Kay Perry, TB Clinical Nurse Specialists at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, said: “Being told you have TB can come as a real shock to people and cause a lot of anxiety, but our small friendly team is there to provide care and support throughout the diagnosis and treatment. We expect people with TB to get better and go on to lead normal healthy lives.”

Reading’s Lead Councillor for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Graeme Hoskin, said: “I’m pleased we can once again support the global TB awareness campaign. The information day in south Reading is one of many ways that we aim to raise awareness and reduce TB infection. Expert teams will be on hand to answer any questions, talk about TB and its symptoms and give advice about testing for latent TB.

“Much excellent work is being done locally to raise awareness of this debilitating disease, and to eradicate it with early diagnosis and treatment. However, the number of TB cases in Reading is still unacceptably high. By working with our NHS partners we hope improved awareness in affected communities and individuals, alongside improved access to high quality services, such as the New Entrant Health Screening Clinic at Royal Berkshire Hospital, will help in the fight against TB.”

Note to Editors
Reading Health and Wellbeing Board has identified reducing Tuberculosis (TB) as a key priority within the Joint Health & Wellbeing Strategy, the strategy aims to promote and protect the health of all communities, particularly those disadvantaged and TB is a cause of health inequality in Reading. 

In Reading the number of TB cases in 2017 was 38.

The New Entrant Health Screening Clinic
The New Entrant Health Screening Clinic, based at the hospital, offers a range of tests for people who have arrived in the UK in the last five years and who were born or spent more than six months in a country with a high incidence of tuberculosis (TB).

Although people with sleeping TB are well and cannot pass the infection to others, it can develop into an active, infectious disease that is spread through the air. The risk of latent TB turning active is heightened when the body is put under stresses, for example, moving countries, starting studies or exams.

A chest x-ray is required as part of UK visa requirements, but the latent TB infection does not always show up and can only be found with special tests. Treatment can then be given to prevent active TB disease from developing.

For more information or to book an appointment at the health screening clinic, please contact the service on 0118 322 6882.

General TB Information
Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death from an infectious disease worldwide, ranking above HIV/AIDS and, in 2016, 10 million people developed TB disease.

The last five years have seen a welcome 32% decrease in TB cases in England, following an unprecedented two-decade-long rise in cases. This success is thanks to the combined efforts of local TB services, regional TB Control Boards, and partners, coming together under the national TB programme. This is the fifth consecutive year there has been a reduction in TB numbers and the number of people with TB is now the lowest seen in the past 17 years.

Yet in 2016, 5,664 patients in England were affected by TBTB is a disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can affect many parts of the body but usually affects the lungs and is curable with a course of antibiotics. TB is difficult to catch as it is only transmitted after prolonged close contact over several days. It is spread through the air when infectious people who have the disease cough, however it is rare for people other than household contacts to catch the infection from someone with TB.

Signs and symptoms of TB include:

  • a persistent cough which does not disappear after two weeks
  • unexplained weight loss
  • night sweats

More information about TB is available at:
An information leaflet on Latent TB Testing is available in a range of languages here.

For a world map showing countries with high rates of TB, see the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

Countries with a high incidence include:

  • Africa – particularly sub-Saharan Africa (all the African countries south of the Sahara desert) and west Africa
  • southeast Asia – including India, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh
  • Russia
  • China
  • South America
  • the western Pacific region (to the west of the Pacific Ocean) – including Vietnam and Cambodia

World TB Day
World TB Day is always on the 24 March and is designed to build public awareness of TB. It commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced the discovery of the cause of TB. At the time of Koch’s announcement in Berlin, TB was rampant throughout Europe and the Americas – killing 1 person in every 4. Koch’s discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing TB.

World TB Day is an opportunity for people everywhere to join this fight by helping to educate others about TB and by urging governments to take action. Now is the time to join the global movement in making a powerful statement and show solidarity.

If you need medical help and are unsure what to do, call NHS 111 for help and advice. They are available 24 hours a day.