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Dr Rob Davidson, a consultant physician since 1992 in Infectious Disease at Northwick Park Hospital was invited to raise awareness about tuberculosis (TB) at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir on Saturday 14 February 2009. Dr Davidson qualified in South Africa and trained in the UK. He has participated in many research projects into the diagnosis and treatment of TB, and is an expert in this area.
His talk highlighted several points. TB is the term used for the infection “tuberculosis”. This is an infection due to the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is caught by breathing in the TB bacterium from people already infected with TB. There is no shame in getting TB, since it is only caught by the simple act of breathing. It is usually caught by being in regular contact (eg a shared household) of someone with TB, since the bacterium needs to be inhaled more than just once. The symptoms of TB include developing a persistent cough, which does not settle after 2 weeks, and occasionally coughing up blood.
Rates of TB have risen recently and especially in Brent and Harrow. Increased awareness and recognition of the symptoms are important. Early detection means early treatment and fewer complications.
Low levels of vitamin D in vegetarian Asians may also contribute to the risk of developing TB. Vitamin D is not found in the vegetarian diet in any appreciable amount, and for many Asians, the only method of getting enough vitamin D is from the sun.
TB is an easy infection to diagnose, and an easy infection to treat. It can have devastating consequences if not caught early.
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