Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread between people by coughing and sneezing.
The infection usually affects the lungs but the bacteria can cause problems in any part of the body, including the abdomen, glands, bones and the nervous system.
At the beginning of the 19th century, TB killed at least one in seven people in England. But today – thanks to improvements in health, faster diagnoses and effective antibiotics – less than six per cent of those with TB are killed by the disease, with just under 4,672 cases reported in the UK in 2018.
Despite these improvements, in 2010 a report into TB in London and Britain as a whole found that the number of cases in the capital had risen by almost 50 per cent from 1999.
Professor Alimuddin Zumla of University College London attributed the rise to people living under ‘Victorian’ conditions, with poor housing, inadequate ventilation and overcrowding in certain deprived areas of London.
He also said the increase in TB cases was predominantly among people born outside Britain, but who appear to have been infected in the UK, rather than in their country of origin.
The infection usually affects the lungs but the bacteria can cause problems in any part of the body, including the abdomen, glands, bones and the nervous system
TB infection causes symptoms like fever, coughing, night sweats, weight loss, tiredness and fatigue, a loss of appetite and swellings in the neck.
If the immune system fails to contain TB bacteria the infection can take weeks or months to take hold and produce symptoms, and if it is left untreated it can be fatal.
TB is most common in less developed countries in sub-saharan and west Africa, southeast Asia, Russia, China and South America.
Researchers in Wales said that of those infected with this disease in 2017, 55 per cent were born outside the UK.
Although, 20 per cent had at least one of the following social risk factors:
- Being in prison
- IV drug use
- Poor housing or homelessness