Redbridge health group fighting spread of tuberculosis as badger cull starts

Badgers being "scapegoated" for the failings of farming

Badgers being "scapegoated" for the failings of farming - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A new health group is fighting the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in Redbridge after it was revealed to have one of the worst rates of the disease in London.

The group was set up by Redbridge Council, which is now in charge of public health in the borough, to co-ordinate a three-year programme to raise awareness of the disease in vulnerable residents.

Specialist TB groups will share their expertise with housing, drug misuse services, voluntary groups and TB sufferers.

Group chairman Gladys Xavier, Redbridge’s deputy director of public health, said: “We are confident that effective detection and treatment of TB will minimise the risk of ongoing transmission.”

Mike Mandelbaum from charity TB Alert, said early treatment is essential to stop the potentially fatal disease being passed on.

He added: “TB is a curable illness and the health services in Redbridge are trying to make sure that people who are at greatest risk go to a doctor if they have symptoms.”

TB typically attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body.

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Symptoms include a chronic cough with bloody mucus, fever, night sweats and weight loss.

More than 56 residents per every 100,000 in the borough had the disease last year, when 157 new cases were recorded.

The average rate for England is just 14 and 42 in London. Most sufferers were born outside of the UK and aged between 25 and 44.

TB can also infect animals. Bovine TB, which is prevalent in cattle but spread by other mammals, can be passed to humans in rare cases.

A controversial badger cull was started by the government in Gloucestershire and Somerset this week aiming to control bovine TB.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is carrying out the trial culls to see whether killing badgers, which are a source of cattle infection, will stop the spread.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the disease was “devastating” cattle and dairy industries.

He added: “We are working on new badger and cattle vaccines but they are years away from being ready and we cannot afford to wait while TB gets worse.”

Diana Korchien, of the Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party, said: “We deplore the badger cull.

“Although Redbridge has one of the worst rates of tuberculosis in London, residents should remember that it is a separate strain of TB, transmitted only between human beings.”