Britain's Chief Medical Officer has announced new measures to tackle and eliminate tuberculosis in Britain

Today the Britain's Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, announced new measures to tackle and ultimately eliminate tuberculosis in Britain.

The Plan, Stopping Tuberculosis in England, provides a strong commitment to tackle the disease by increasing the awareness of the disease amongst health professional and the public, establishing high quality surveillance to monitor the disease concentrating on high risk groups, identifying the infection early, and ensuring excellence in clinical care for patients with TB.

The measures to be implemented include:

  • Providing multi-lingual and culturally relevant information.
  • New TB clinical networks.
  • Quicker and more effective screening of 'high risk' groups
  • Named case managers assigned to every TB patient.
  • Higher vaccination coverage of babies in high risk groups.
  • DNA bacterial fingerprinting to track TB spread in communities.
  • Strengthening TB surveillance in prisons.
  • Wider use of Digital X-ray vans.
  • Research for better drugs and vaccines.

Sir Liam Donaldson said:

"In our battle against tuberculosis, the disease has regained the upper hand.  We need to get back to public health basics.  Identifying the high risk groups early, ensuring effective treatment for them and using modern laboratory techniques to track the disease are all vital control measures.  Experience elsewhere has shown that the march of TB can be halted.

“Our long-term goal is to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, TB in this country."

Health Secretary, John Reid, said:

“This is a hugely important problem and I have been discussing it informally with fellow ministers in Europe. I have been intent that we would be the first country to have such a comprehensive plan and I am very grateful to CMO for having completed this important work.’

TB in England has increased by 25 per cent over the last 10 years;

  • over 6000 people were newly diagnosed with TB in England in 2002 – 13 cases for  every 100,000 people;
  • this is more than some countries but less than others – Germany, Portugal, Spain and Ireland has rates higher than the UK;
  • around 350 people in England die each year from the disease;
  • most TB in England occurs among people in inner cities – two in every five cases are in London;
  • most at risk of contracting TB are people who have lived or worked in parts of the world where TB is common;
  • around seven out of every 10 people with TB come from an ethnic minority group;
  • nearly two-thirds of people with TB were born abroad;
  • about half of the TB patients who were born abroad are diagnosed with the disease within five years of first entering the UK;
  • in England, around six per cent of the TB grown from patients with TB are resistant to one or more drug and one per cent show multidrug    resistance;
  • left untreated, a person with infectious TB of the lungs infects, on average, 10-15 people a year, but the risk of a contact acquiring infection depends on the nature and duration of exposure

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