Generate awareness to tackle TB in Scotland

Rise in cases being linked to immigrants

6th December 2010:
The rise in tuberculosis cases in Scotland has led to calls for better contact tracing, treatment, and generation of awareness among high risk groups, immigrants included. As of now, the increase in the number of curable tuberculosis cases is being linked to immigration.

The Scottish Government has already set up a working group to look at the rise in cases, but the project was delayed by the swine flu outbreak.

Official figures show level of lung disease is at its highest in a decade in Scotland. An increase of 10 per cent has been registered. Last year, it was 452, including 38 deaths, compared to 408 in 2007.

A report by the country’s health agency, Health Protection Scotland (HPS), says the cases involving immigrants are on the increase, rising from 21 per cent in 2001 to 49 per cent last year.

Since 2005, the thrust of the immunization programme was on vulnerable groups. These included children with parents from countries where TB is still a problem. But the experts believe screening for TB is no longer proving to be effective in combating the disease, as it can lie dormant for decades in sufferers before surfacing.

A Glasgow-based consultant epidemiologist working with HPS, Dr Oliver Blatchford, says this is obviously of great concern, as screening doesn’t seem to be working. What is required is better contact tracing, treatment, and to raise awareness among high risk groups.

Chief executive of TB Alert Mike Mandelbaum says the disease never did go away and it’s still a burden. A combination of drugs was discovered in the mid-1950s which could treat it, and we’re still using them today. Perhaps that led to some complacency.

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