Wrong attitude on TB

There’s a saying – don’t shoot the messenger. But The Daily Mail is always a tempting fall guy regardless. Here they report on TB.

I’m going to start with what’s written in the info box:

“…However, many people who are infected never develop symptoms – although the bacteria remain in the body, they are not infectious.”

With that paragraph we can see that TB, then, is probably only of concern in people with weak immune systems. If your immune system is strong you won’t suffer from it and are less likely to pass it on.

On to the main text…

“Professor Davies and his peers recommend that people from the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are highest, should be given the blood test when registering with a GP. Those found to have latent TB can easily eliminate it with a course of antibiotics.”

People from the Indian subcontinent (usually brown) and sub-Saharan Africa (usually black). You need to read my book to see why these people are likely to be most at risk.

“Speaking about the blood test, he said: ‘It’s a no-brainer. If we screen for latent TB we would eliminate the majority of cases of people coming into this country. Now we’ve got the blood tests, for goodness’ sake let’s use them.’”

If the TB is merely latent prior to immigration into Britain, isn’t it worth asking why it might be become more virulent on arrival? …Latitude, latitude!

“He added that with TB claiming up to 500 deaths a year, the numbers were as many as HIV. The homeless and drug addicts should also be screened because new infections have become more common among these groups, he continued.”

If the numbers are as many as for HIV, couldn’t there be overlap between TB and HIV? Drug addicts, funnily enough, are prone to TB, and to HIV which can cause TB. The homeless are likely to be malnourished and… you get the picture.

“Mike Mandlebaum, chief executive of the charity TB Alert, said: ‘The truth is that TB never really went away in the UK and has been steadily rising here, from around 5,000 cases a year at the end of the Eighties to 8,500 in 2007/8.”

If TB never really went away in the UK then the problem is always weak defences. When an influx of immigrants from sunnier countries arrives here and gets sick, isn’t local bacterium and the climate feasible to blame too? Don’t forget that black and brown people born to immigrants in the UK can also suffer  from TB commonly, and they couldn’t have brought it with them because they were born here. Their infections are not always spread by relatives.
Even if Britain were an all-Caucasian country I think you’d still have a lot of TB for myriad and connected reasons.

“Onn Min Kon, a consultant at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, said that rates of the disease are continuing to rise and that the UK has the highest rates in Europe.”

The UK, alongside places like America, has long been friendly to immigrants the world over, so it’s not surprising that this would fuel the TB explosion; but the numbers would be less in America because of some climate advantage.

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