Killer disease strikes at East London School

Kingsford Community School in Beckton, East London

No it’s not Ebola, although I would certainly expect that awful disease to put in an appearance in the London Borough of Newham. This is because possibly Ebola infected ‘Bushmeat’ is sold widely in East London, but this story relates to another killer disease, Tuberculosis (TB).

Tuberculosis was once the unseen killer that stalked British families, killing and incapacitating thousands of people per year. For a while in Britain at least, it was vanquished by a comprehensive vaccination policy, improvements to public health, agriculture and food handling standards and the introduction of antibiotics.

Now partly because of immigration from countries where TB is endemic and where there are poorly functioning and often corrupt healthcare systems, TB is again becoming a cause for worry for people in East London.

According to the local paper for Newham, The Newham Recorder, a number of children at a school in Beckton in the South of the Borough have tested positive and in at least one case have fallen ill from TB.

The Newham Recorder said:

 Twenty pupils have tested positive for tuberculosis after an ­outbreak of the killer disease at a Newham secondary school.

A total of 83 students at Kingsford Community School, Kingsfiord Way, Beckton, were tested before the end of term last month, it emerged, ­after a fellow pupil was diagnosed with the ­infectious strain of the disease.

Students who came into close contact with the boy were tested in June and July after some ­developed symptoms following the ­pupil’s diagnosis in May.

Of those screened, 17 tested positive for “latent” TB, meaning they experience no symptoms, and three were diagnosed with “active” TB, which presents symptoms like coughing and ­fever but is not contagious.

The 20 students are receiving specialist treatment, including a course of antibiotics to wipe out the disease.

The boy with “full blown” TB was taken out of school and treated, and was well enough to return before the end of term.

Public Health England (PHE) said the students may not have caught the disease from the first boy, as Newham already has a high incidence of TB.

Rosemary Stephens, whose son Edward was diagnosed with “latent” TB, received a letter from the school in May saying her son would need to be screened.

One of the boys that my son talks to at school came in with a really bad cough,” she said. “The boy had been coughing up blood.

Then we received a letter saying Edward had to be screened. My son has to take tablets. He’s never taken tablets and he’s having a really hard time.

I have a feeling it’s going to ­interfere with his schooling.”

She added: “All his friends are on antibiotics as well. It’s really scary, because it’s a killer. It can kill you.”

Dr Simon Cathcart, director of PHE’s north east London health protection team, said: “TB is a disease that typically requires close, prolonged and frequent contact before transmission ­occurs.

It is important that everyone is aware of the symptoms of TB, which include a prolonged unexplained cough, fevers and weight loss.

Greater awareness can mean the condition is diagnosed much faster.”

It looks very much as if one boy at least has been infected with TB whilst at the school and years after TB was supposed to be a thing of the past, Newham is now a TB hotspot. It is concerning to hear Dr Simon Cathcart of Public Health England trying to play down this issue. I cannot help but think that he is doing so for reasons of political correctness, after all it would never do to have the plebs start asking why a once proud borough now has a TB problem would it? The people of Newham would not need to have ‘greater awareness’ about a disease that should have been confined to the history books had not Labour filled the borough with people who brought TB and probably other exotic diseases with them.

Britain is extremely vulnerable to TB.  Vaccination against TB is no longer part of the usual schedule of vaccines that are routinely given. No more do teenagers get a BCG vaccination that protected them against TB. A TB outbreak, especially an outbreak of multi-drug resistant TB could kill or disable many many people. There is no longer any ‘herd immunity’ within the UK to TB and that is something that should be a concern for all of us.  

5 Comments on "Killer disease strikes at East London School"

  1. The incidence of TB in the East End (and the modern reasons for it) were known about back in the 80s. Workers with the homeless told me about when I wrote an article about St Botolph’s Aldgate.

    Nothing new about this, but it’s been being hushed up for decades.

    • Fahrenheit211 | August 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm |

      There has always been a certain level of TB in the homeless and others whose lifestyle, if it includes a lot of alcohol and street drugs, renders a person more vulnerable. What is different about the Newham situation is that this is not an outbreak confined to those who are sleeping on the street or who are junkies or problem drinkers but is very much one that is centred on a geographical area. These latest infections of TB are of what could be called ‘ordinary’ people who do not have the aggravating circumstances of being drug or alcohol dependent or who are homeless. In Newham, TB is now out of the category of being a disease that only has so far affected specific groups, and is in the general population.

  2. Paris Claims | August 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm |

    Now partly because of immigration from countries where TB is endemic and where there are poorly functioning and often corrupt healthcare systems, TB is again becoming a cause for worry for people in East London.

    PARTLY? Totally, more like.

  3. Furor Teutonicus | August 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm |

    Berlin has a red alert for T.B. The first time since 1945.

    It arrives from, particularly, Russians and Poles.

    Trouble is, the Russian version is drug resistant AND infectious.

    If you have ever been into an old part of town, you may have occassionaly seen ancient “No spitting” signs.

    These were put up in the early 1820s ( ) due to the instances of TB coming back in soldiers and sailors returning from the Napoleonic wars.

    Looks like we could be returning to those days.

  4. Had a few cases in Rochdale over the past few years. In many cases due to the child going “home” to Pakistan. Another one of those things multiculturalism makes us grateful for.

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