TB rises sharply in young women

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POVERTY, homelessness and a rising number of refugees are factors behind the increase in tuberculosis which is affecting younger women disproportionately, leading specialists said yesterday, writes Nicholas Timmins.

After years of decline, TB is again on the increase, with the number of cases having risen from just over 5,000 in 1987 and set to top 6,000 this year.

Doctors at Fazakerley Hospital in Liverpool have found the sharpest increase has come in women aged 25-44, in whom there has been a 22 per cent increase, against 11 per cent for men in the same age group.

'TB is not a disease of the history books and it is worrying that young women have shown this sharp increase in contracting the disease,' Dr Peter Davies, director of the TB research unit at the Cardiothoracic Centre, Liverpool, said yesterday at a meeting of the British Thoracic Society. 'The factors implicated seem to be increasing poverty and immigration.'

But a study of cases in Hackney, east London, where the incidence of TB has doubled in the past four years, showed one-third were in groups such as whites and Afro-Caribbeans, who are not usually recognised as being at high risk of the disease. A full-scale survey of TB cases is under way which should provide a more detailed picture of who has acquired the disease and why.