An MP has joined calls for routine vaccinations against tuberculosis in parts of Birmingham.
Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) raised concerns about the spread of the disease in the city, as she questioned Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in the House of Commons.
Mr Lansley said an outreach service in London, which identifies people infected with TB and offers treatment, could be extended to other cities, but he did not promise vaccinations.
It follows a report presented to Birmingham City Council by Dr Jim McManus, the city’s public health director, who warned more vaccinations were needed.
TB cases across Birmingham and Solihull have increased in the past 10 years by 107 per cent, compared to 57 per cent nationally.
Government guidelines state that vaccinations should be offered to infants in communities where the number of TB cases is at least 40 per 100,00 residents.
But Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust, which covers Ladywood, Aston, Nechells and Sparkbrook, reported 264 cases in 2009, 99 cases per 100,000 people, while Birmingham North and East PCT, which includes Washwood Heath, Erdington, Yardley and Kingstanding, put the figure at 43 cases per 100,000.
Ms Stuart asked: “What more can Birmingham do under the new arrangements to prevent such exceedingly high numbers?”
Mr Lansley told her: “We can do a number of things. For example, the department has funded TB Alert, which is the UK’s national TB charity, to raise awareness of TB among public and primary health care professionals, which will help.
“In London, we have supported a find-and-treat outreach service. In a similar vein, that could happen in cities where there is a rising prevalence of TB.
“TB is not general across the country, but likely to occur in particular areas. Those kind of initiatives enable us to identify TB outbreaks, and we can then structure services around that.”
Speaking afterwards, Ms Stuart said: “It wouldn’t make sense to have routine vaccinations everywhere but I have yet to hear an argument against vaccinating in Birmingham.
“There is a squeamishness about discussing this issue because the communities affected tend to be those with links to the Indian sub-continent. For example, children might make regular visits to countries with a high incidence of TB.
“But that shouldn’t prevent us looking at the issue sensibly.”