TB rates in Newham are among the worst in the country, but the council claims it is fighting back against the disease.
According to a report from Public Health England in 2013, Newham had recorded 335 cases, or 107 per 100,000, more than any other local authority in London.
But a senior figure within Newham Council said the authority was doing all it could to decrease the spread of TB. He said many cases were down to poor quality private housing and people coming to live in the borough who already had a latent form of the disease.
Newham’s mayoral adviser for adults and health Cllr Clive Furness said: “We do face unique challenges in terms of deprivation, a highly transient population, and poor quality private housing, which are regarded as major contributors to the spread of TB.
“The level of the disease in the borough is something we take extremely seriously and the council is working with a wide range of partners including the NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group and Barts Health NHS Trust to tackle the issue head on.”
The response from Newham Council comes after a London Assembly report which criticised the lack of outreach programmes to help educate communities within the borough about the disease. But Cllr Furness said many in Newham who had the disease had contracted it before they came to live in Newham.
“Evidence has suggested that the biggest problem we face is people coming into the borough with latent TB which has developed into active TB while they are here.
“This was why with our health partners we became the first local authority area to offer a programme of latent TB screening of new patients through GP practices with treatment offered at local pharmacies. This targeted and cost effective approach has been shortlisted for a health sector award.”
Cllr Furness went on to say Newham had the highest rates of baby immunisations in the UK, while children from other countries are screened for the disease.
He said: “On top of this we also continually seek to raise awareness of the symptoms of TB, enhance the local support available for any TB sufferers and inform our residents of the steps they can take to avoid contracting the disease.
“TB requires prolonged exposure to an infected person to be passed on meaning overcrowding in houses can contribute to its spread. This is one of the issues our pioneering licensing scheme for all privately rented homes in the borough is helping to tackle.
“With more than 40,000 properties we have one of the largest private rented sector in London. Our scheme limits the number of people per room of a property which prevents overcrowding in houses of multiple occupation.
“Poorly managed HMOs have been a prime target of the scheme since it started. They have also formed the vast amount of the 639 prosecutions we have made under the scheme – which have been for poor conditions and overcrowding. Any private landlord renting out a property without a licence can face a fine of up to £20,000.
“We believe that our coordinated approach to eliminating latent TB in recent arrivals to the borough and tackling the contributory factors will help to reduce the incidences of this disease in the borough. ”