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Girl diagnosed as ‘lovesick’ dies from TB

May 15, 2012

This morning I read an article that really resinated with me. On the front pagof the Metro it read: Diagnosed as lovestruck died of TB.

The article was about 15-year-old Alina Sarag, who sadly died of Tuberculosis last year. What makes this story even more sad and shocking is that Alina’s health concerns were dismissed by serveral doctors, despite having a history of TB. Alina, from Sparkbrook, Birmingham, was first diagnosed with TB in March 2009. In August 2010, the following year, she sufferedg from severe weight loss, breathing difficulties and repeated vomiting – clear syptoms of TB infection. According to the artciles in the Metro, her GP allegedly turned down TB tests and instead suggested she see a psychiatrist or spiritual healer. What’s more, the family GP was said to have accused Alina’s parents of ‘mollycoddling’ suggested she was just ‘lovesick.’ In October 2010, Birmingham Children’s Hospital doctors also dismissed her problems as ‘a psychological issue’. After months of illness she died after being taken to hospital with breathing difficulties in January last year.

A post-mortem examination would later show she had what the pathologist called ‘one of the most severe cases’ of TB he had seen.

The hearing into Alina’s death continues. My thoughts go out to Alina’s family.

Not only does this incident suggest serious negligence on behalf of the doctors treating her, but it also suggests that Tuberculosis is not taken seriously within the UK, despite London being the TB capital of Western Europe, accounting for 40 per cent of the UK total. What’s more, Birmingham, where Alina was from, is one of the most TB affected cities in the UK, which is why I find it completely shocking that none of the doctors she sought medical assistance offered to test her for TB.

“In order to reduce TB cases in the future, it’s very important that health commissioners, especially in parts of the country with the highest rates of TB, prioritise the delivery of appropriate clinical and public health TB services.”

At the beginning of the 20th century, tuberculosis was one of the UK’s most urgent health problems. Nowadays, we have a tendency to think of TB as a disease of the past or a disease of the developing world, but that is not the case at all. Hopes that the disease could be completely eliminated were dashed in the 1980s with the rise of drug-resistantstrains. Tuberculosis cases in the UK, numbering around 117,000 in 1913, had fallen to around 5,000 in 1987, but cases rose again, reaching 6,300 in 2000, 7,600 cases in 2005 and over 9000 in 2011 (figure from HPA). This may not seem like much, but TB is highly contagious, and has the potential to spread like wildfire, especially in the era of multi-drug-resistant TB. The WHO warns tuberculosis could become an incurable disease if we fail to act.

We need to realise that TB anywhere is TB everywhere.

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