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.