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TB awareness roadshow hits Elephant and Castle

Local people need to be aware of Tuberculosis as cases continue to be diagnosed, say experts from Guyâs and St Thomas' on World TB Day this week.

World TB Day
World TB Day at St Thomas' in 2006.

In 2005 there were around 520 cases of TB in the south east London area, with most cases being reported in Lambeth, Southwark and Greenwich.

"People still think of TB as being something from Victorian times, but rates are steadily increasing – there were over 8,000 new cases in the UK in 2005, 11 per cent more than in 2004," says consultant respiratory physician Dr Heather Milburn.

"However, the good news is that TB is usually now curable with the right treatment."

She continued: "TB can affect anyone, although some communities are at higher risk than others. Everyone should be aware of the symptoms and what to do if they think they might have the disease or if they have been in close contact with someone who has the symptoms. The sooner someone seeks help and, if necessary, starts treatment, the better."

The main symptoms of TB usually continue for several weeks and include:
A cough that has lasted for more than three weeks, or coughing up blood
Loss of weight
Fever and very heavy night sweats

TB usually affects a person's lungs, but lymph glands, bones, joints and even the brain can also be affected.

Those most at risk from TB include:
People from countries overseas with high rates of TB, particularly in Africa and Asia;
People who live in cramped conditions and have a poor diet, especially if someone in their household develops TB;
Children, elderly people and anyone with any other condition (such as HIV) or treatment (ie for cancer or immunological diseases) which might weaken the body's immune system.

The community TB team based at St Thomas' Hospital held an information display in the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre on World TB Day on Friday,

TB is usually treated with a six-month course of tablets and in most cases it is completely curable. The community team runs weekly clinics at Guy's, St Thomas', Kings College Hospital and Lewisham Hospital. The team offers screening to people who have a household member with TB, and provides help and support to people with the disease to complete their treatment and to learn more about TB and how it is spread.

Anyone who is worried about TB should see their GP, contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice or log onto www.tbalert.org for general information about the disease. Local residents who have been in contact with someone with TB can also make an appointment to see the community TB team by calling 020 7188 5811.

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