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SPECIAL REPORT: TB disease still exists in county




Help prevent the spread of TB by using a tissue to cover sneezes and coughs. (Photo posed by model).
Help prevent the spread of TB by using a tissue to cover sneezes and coughs. (Photo posed by model).

A disease that was once rife in the UK may be rare these days but there are still incidences of recorded cases in Lincolnshire.

Already this year, there has been one confirmed case of Tuberculosis (TB) in the county and latest figures show that in 2016 there were 31 cases (five of those being in South Holland).

Infographic from Public Health England on key actions to help eliminate TB.
Infographic from Public Health England on key actions to help eliminate TB.

In 2015, there were 36 cases in the county, (three in South Holland).

The highest number of cases occurred in Boston.

Final figures are not in yet for 2017 but the number of reported incidents of TB in Lincolnshire have increased slightly over the last eight years.

However, Lincolnshire’s Community Health Services (LCHS) NHS Trust, says it is doing everything it can to keep the county as a low incident area for TB and that Lincolnshire remains a low risk area for TB.

The BCG vaccine does not prevent TB in all cases so you still need to know the signs and symptoms of TB.
Sue Silvester, TB Lead Nurse

According to figures for the East Midlands from Public Health England, most incidents of reported TB in 2016 involved cases in the workplace, with Lincolnshire reporting the highest number of those.

Figures also showed that the TB rate in the non-UK born population in the East Midlands is nearly 21 times higher than the UK born population; with India being the most common country of birth.

And in 2016, the incidence rate of TB was highest in those living in deprived areas (46% of all cases).

Sue Silvester, who is the TB Lead Nurse for LCHS NHS Trust, explained: “Our Countywide Community TB Service is committed to keeping the county a low incidence area for the disease.

“We support people diagnosed with TB and those identified as at risk throughout any investigation or treatment process, while also offering advice and training to everyone.

“We work closely with other health professionals, including microbiologists, radiologists, pharmacists, general practitioners and colleagues from health protection and Public Health.

“We also work to raise awareness of TB wherever possible, such as the recent health and well-being meeting in Spalding (at Tonic Health in Westlode Street).”

TB is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs, although it can affect any part of the body.

The most common symptoms of TB may include:

○ a persistent cough that lasts over three weeks and gets progressively worse,

○ sometimes you may cough up blood

○ loss of weight for no obvious reason

○ fever and heavy sweating at night

○ a general and unusual sense of tiredness and being unwell

○ poor appetite

○ enlarged glands in the neck, underarms and groins

Sue said that the number of TB cases for 2017 have not yet been confirmed.

This is due to patients still undergoing testing/treatment.

She said: “As TB is a slow growing bacterium, confirmed diagnosis is often not known for some time.”

The BCG vaccine (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine) used to be offered to every child aged between 10-14 in schools across the UK as routine.

This was scrapped in 2005.

Sue said: “There is a vaccine (BCG) that has been in use for many years to help protect against TB.

“However, the BCG works best to prevent the more serious forms of TB in children.

“Hence, the vaccine is now given to babies considered at risk of acquiring TB, soon after birth.

“The older you get the less effective the vaccine becomes, so it may not work for teenagers or older people.

“The BCG vaccine does not prevent TB in all cases so you still need to know the signs and symptoms of TB.

“TB is not easily caught; you have to be in fairly prolonged, close contact with someone with TB in the lungs or throat (for example, living in the same household/room) in order to possibly pass it on.

“Respiratory etiquette, such as using a tissue to cover sneezes and coughs and washing your hands regularly, must also be practiced when you or others have a cough.”

According to Public Health England it is unlikely TB can be contracted through spitting in the street as you have to be in prolonged contact.

Sue added: “TB is curable and can usually be treated with a six-month course of antibiotics.

“It is vitally important to complete the whole course of antibiotics to cure the TB. If you don’t, the TB may return in a form that is resistant to the usual drugs and much more difficult to treat.

“If you are started on TB treatment, you will be allocated a TB nurse who will look after you until your treatment is completed.”

○ Latent TB means you could have TB bacteria ‘asleep’ in your body. You are not ill and there are no symptoms.

But the TB bacteria may ‘wake up’ and make you ill with TB in the future.

If you have lived in a country where TB is more common, know someone who has TB, have an illness or take medication that makes you more vulnerable to TB, it is important to get tested.

Latent TB can be diagnosed by a specific TB blood test and treated with antibiotics.

For more help and info call the Countywide Community TB Service on 01522 307239.



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