To mark World Tuberculosis Day (Thursday 24th March), Reading Council, GPs, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust and other healthcare providers are joining together in the drive to raise awareness, reach and treat all those affected by the disease in the local area.
Staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital will be hosting an information stand, talking to patients, visitors and staff about TB and the free health screening service available in Reading for people newly arrived in the UK who may have been exposed to the disease.
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 three months in a country with a high incidence of tuberculosis (TB).
TB is a disease caused by bacteria that can affect any part of a person’s body but most commonly affects the lungs. It can be infectious but can be cured by taking treatment.
A person may feel perfectly well and display no symptoms, but may be carrying a latent (sleeping) TB infection. Approximately one third of the world’s population has latent TB.
Although people with latent TB are usually 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.
Kay Perry, New Entrant Screening Nurse, said: “The TB service is a small friendly team keen to develop links with the local community that it serves. We would like to reach individuals who may benefit from this important health check to prevent them becoming unwell in the future and thus reduce TB rates in our local area. TB is treatable and curable.”
Reading’s Lead Councillor for Health, Graeme Hoskin, said: “Much excellent work is being done to raise awareness of this debilitating disease, and to eradicate it with early diagnosis and treatment.
“However, the number of TB cases in England, and locally 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, will help in the fight against TB.”
Dr Bu Thava, GP at Reading Walk-in Centre said: “We know that instances of TB are much higher locally in Reading than the national average - and that’s why I would urge people newly arrived in the UK, who have family or friends who have had TB, or may have become exposed to it in other ways, to take up the offer of this free health screening service.
“Typical symptoms of TB include a persistent, phlegmy cough (sometimes with blood) that lasts more than three weeks, night sweats, chest pains, unusual swellings, tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss.
“TB is a treatable disease and screening is the only way to detect latent TB and then preventative treatment can be offered to reduce the likelihood of active TB developing in the future.”
For more information or to book an appointment at the health screening clinic, please contact the service on 0118 322 6882.
An information leaflet on Latent TB Testing is available in a range of languages here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/latent-tb-testing-and-treatment-leaflet
TB remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of nearly one-and-a-half million people each year, mostly in developing countries.
Although the incidence of TB has significantly reduced in the UK since the introduction of antibiotics, it has not yet been eradicated. There were 6,520 cases in 2014, of which 72 per cent were found among people born outside the UK. Of these, 86 per cent were among people that had been in the country for longer than two years – suggesting reactivation of latent TB.
In Reading, 58 cases of TB were reported in 2014, compared to 43 cases in 2012. At 36 cases per 100,000, that is three times the 12 per 100,000 rate for the UK.
For a world map showing countries with high rates of TB, see the World Health Organization (WHO) website: http://gamapserver.who.int/mapLibrary/Files/Maps/Global_TBincidence_2013.png
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
- South America
- the western Pacific region (to the west of the Pacific Ocean) – including Vietnam and Cambodia
For more information on World TB Day and on tuberculosis visit: