I READ with interest the article 'TB rates four times higher in Hounslow' dated May 13, 2009, and letter 'No excuse for inaction over TB' dated May 29, 2009. I am responding to balance some of the claims.
Firstly, let me reassure all Hounslow residents that TB cannot be caught from spit on the street (or touching or sharing cutlery). Transmission is airborne and close prolonged contact is usually necessary.
Secondly, most immigrants do not have active TB when they enter the country, they develop it after living here for some time. I can confirm there are checks on immigrants from parts of the World where TB is endemic. For example chest xrays are used at Heathrow and Gatwick airports to screen those staying here for more than six months who are from countries with a rate of more than 40 per 100,000.
Thirdly, I can confirm that Hounslow is not the only London Borough to have higher than the average TB rates.
Fourthly, our work to address TB in Hounslow includes a 'Targeting TB' partnership initiative, which aims to raise awareness of the disease locally.
The partnership was created in 2006. The initiative brings together West Middlesex University Hospital and the London Borough of Hounslow and NHS Hounslow together with community groups. It seeks to provide greater support for existing TB patients and raise understanding of the disease, while breaking down the stigma sometimes associated with it.
The partnership has enabled us to fund a TB outreach worker who acts as an advocate for local TB patients, to promote understanding of the disease and its symptoms and emphasise the key message that TB is curable.
Dr Mike Robinson,
Joint Director of Public Health/Medical Director
NHS Hounslow/London Borough of Hounslow