The father of a girl who died from tuberculosis has called for all schoolchildren to be vaccinated against the deadly disease as new figures revealed the number of cases of the illness have soared in the West Midlands.
Sultan Sarag’s daughter Alina was just 15 years old when she died of TB in January last year.
She picked up the disease during an outbreak at her Golden Hillock School, in Sparkhill, and the latent condition became active following a trip to Pakistan.
Mr Sarag, aged 44, of Sparkhill, urged the government to introduce TB vaccinations into schools as the Health Protection Agency revealed there were 1,011 cases of TB in the region in 2011 compared to 872 in 2010 – a rise of 13.7 per cent.
“I want to get the message out there that children need to be vaccinated to stop more youngsters like my daughter from needlessly losing their lives,” said Mr Sarag. “I cannot describe the pain of losing her. I miss her so much, every day without her feels like 50 days.”
He now plans to lobby West Midlands Tory MEP Malcolm Harbour and is set to launch a petition in local mosques to present to Downing Street.
While Mr Sarag campaigns to vaccinate to prevent people getting the illness, the latest figures have also revealed a stark rise in the number of cases of TB where the sufferer has failed to respond to antibiotics to treat the disease.
In the West Midlands, 38 people with TB in the last year did not respond to at least one drug, compared to 28 in 2010 – a rise of 26 per cent. The region saw the number of TB sufferers who failed to respond to a multitude of antibiotics increase from five in 2010 to nine last year – an increase of 44.4 per cent.
Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, the HPA’s head of TB surveillance, said patients usually build up immunity to antibiotics due to the spread of a drug-resistant strain from another person or as a result of them failing to complete former courses of treatment.
“The increase in drug- resistant cases remains a concern and a challenge to our efforts to control TB in the UK,” he added. The West Midlands has the highest regional rate of TB outside London, with particular “hot spots” in Ladywood, Aston, Nechells, Sparkbrook, Lozells and Handsworth.
Target TB West Midlands, a project co-ordinated by the HPA and supported by councils, the NHS and the charity TB Alert, was launched in March in a bid to drive down rising rates of the disease in the region.
West Midlands East Unit Director Dr Huda Mohamed said: “We must be aware that health services sometimes fail to reach some groups in the community and that increases the risk of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
“We are shining the spotlight on what needs to be done differently to stop this increase and push TB up the agenda as a public health priority.
“By working with these communities we hope to make a real difference”