Number of people infected with TB in Redbridge at its highest level in 10 years

The number of people infected with tuberculosis (TB) in Redbridge is at its highest level in 10 years and is considered a “major” problem for the council and public health trust.

Whilst there has been a reduction in most other cases of infectious disease in the borough, there has been an increase in the number of notified cases of TB, rising from 145 cases in 2010 to 173 the following year – one of the highest rates in London and the UK.

As World TB Day approaches on Sunday, a new partnership, which includes Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, TB Alert, Redbridge Council and Redbridge Council for Voluntary Services (RCVS), is hoping to raise awareness of the disease and reduce the stigma attached to those with the condition.

According to the borough’s annual public health report, TB awareness and its symptoms in the general community is said to be “poor”.

Gladys Xavier, deputy director of public health in Redbridge, said: “The borough is responding to the growing number of TB cases by working in partnership with relevant groups to co-ordinate a programme to raise awareness among the most vulnerable.

“This will also mean improving the design and delivery of local TB services.”

Although the long-running BCG vaccine, which was given to schoolchildren, stopped in 2005, the vaccine is offered to babies born in Redbridge.

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Ms Xavier added: “There are different reasons for the increase in Redbridge. Most of our cases are what we call latent, which means people have been exposed to the TB germ earlier in life and it reactivates later.

“Raising awareness is important so people can go to their GP early for a prompt diagnosis. TB is treatable.”

Training was held on Monday and Tuesday, aimed at making community and faith leaders aware of the illness.

Team leader with the Shpresa Programme, Zelihe Rexhepi, said: “It is so important that people are made aware of the condition so they can be treated.”