Some London boroughs have tubercolisis (TB) levels that are “significantly higher” than countries such as Rwanda, Iraq and Guatemala, according to a London health committee.
There were more than 2,500 new cases of TB in London in 2014, making up approximately 40% of all cases in the UK.
One third of London’s boroughs exceed the World Health Organization “high incidence” threshold of 40 cases per 100,000 population and some boroughs have incidence levels as high as 113 per 100,000 people.
The report Tackling TB in London by the London Assembly Health Committee looks into the problems TB poses for the capital and how it can be addressed.
It also found that the awareness of TB in the capital was lacking, as over half of respondents (56%) thought TB was transmitted through spitting and 17% of survey respondents thought that it can be transmitted through unprotected sex.
Similarly, one-in-five Londoners (18%) of 1,006 said that they don’t know what the symptoms of TB are, and only 30% of Londoners said that they would be happy to spend time with someone who has TB, showing the stigma surrounding the disease.
People with a weakened immune system, eg those with HIV or diabetes, are at high-risk of TB, as well as those with chronic ill health (due to smoking, poor nutrition, stress, and drug or alcohol abuse) and homeless people. The report said: “Overcrowded and poorly ventilated living conditions make it easier for TB to spread in the air.”
“TB affects some of London’s most vulnerable and marginalised people and communities, and is strongly associated with deprivation and health inequality,” the report read. “It is also a heavily stigmatised disease. Fear and misinformation continue to hamper efforts at prevention and treatment.”