Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Britain will be swamped by TB unless high-risk immigrants are routinely given blood tests, experts warn
A leading doctor has warned that Britain will be swamped by tuberculosis unless new measures to diagnose the disease in immigrants are introduced. The disease, which was rife in Britain until the 1950s, is an increasing and worrying problem in urban areas. Rising immigration has seen a surge in cases in the last 20 years. Under current rules, new immigrants from countries where TB is common are required to have chest X-rays before being allowed into Britain. But doctors argue that this century-old method only spots active TB once it is already destroying the lungs – meaning cases are often diagnosed far too late. Experts recommend that people from the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are highest, should be given a TB blood test when registering with a GP. Research has found that a fifth of immigrants to Britain from high-risk areas had latent TB – but the current guidelines for screening men around 75% of these cases will be missed, so the real figure may be substantially higher.