TB man forcibly detained in British hospital

A man is being detained in a hospital in Manchester, England in order to prevent him spreading tuberculosis (TB) to other people.

The man who is from Rochdale is being held in an infectious disease unit after council officials obtained a court order to detain him in North Manchester General Hospital.

In consultation with the Health Protection Agency (HPA), Rochdale Council applied for the man to be detained as an in-patient and say their action was a last resort.

The HPA say such action is comparatively rare and has only happened three times in the past four years in the North West and is not something that has been done lightly.

The man thought to be from South Africa was detained under Sections 37 and 38 of the Public Health Act (Control of Disease) 1984, and has been placed under 24-hour guard at the hospital for eight weeks; he is not allowed to leave before November 2nd.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis; it can affect the lungs and other parts of the body and in some people, it can lead to serious complications and even death, especially if the body is weakened by other health problems.

TB is spread when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks and another person breathes in the bacteria in the droplets; prolonged contact is usually needed to become infected.

Most TB sufferers in the UK have links with Africa, India or China, where it is widespread and over 6,000 cases of TB are reported in Britain each year, and about 500 people die from the disease.

The number of cases is rising slowly each year.

Lawyers for the man say they will challenge any extension of the order using human rights legislation.

The HPA are tracing those who came into contact with the man but point out that it takes prolonged and close contact with a sufferer to contract the disease.

Rochdale health officials say the man is now undergoing treatment for the disease.

Although anyone can get TB, it is more likely if you already have another disease, have poor diet and live in overcrowded or sub-standard housing.

Symptoms of active primary TB include: a persistent cough - there may also be lots of phlegm which is sometimes bloodstained, swollen glands, especially in the neck, tiredness, loss of appetite and weight, night sweats, chest pain on breathing in caused by inflammation of the membranes lining the lungs (pleurisy).

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