Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

A slice of TB history

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A dear friend, Derek Woodcock has responded to this blog with an absolutely delectable account of the history of TB in the UK and its resurgence. I produce it below, unedited – Bharathi Ghanashyam

When I was young, TB was a killer in UK industrial towns and cities because of a poor diet, lack of sanitation and the wholesale burning of coal on domestic fires for cooking and heating during long winters. Children living in slums were especially prone to TB and rickets (both now eradicated) and the elderly were at risk from TB and other life-threatening bronchial conditions until our Clean Air Act was introduced in the Fifties.

I can remember being dispatched to a bedroom, warmed by a coal fire, whenever I caught a cough or cold. Mothers in those days used to apply chest poultices soaked in goose fat in an effort to ‘sweat’ the cold before other members of the family succumbed. We were a family of six, crowded into a two-up, two-down terrace house in the shadow of a Yorkshire woollen mill and main-line steam railway, both of which spewed out black smoke 24 hours a day to add to the pollution created by row-upon-row of domestic chimneys.

Those were the days of much colder winters leading to regular foggy conditions (the term ‘smog’ was coined to describe a potentially lethal mixture of smoke and fog) which were so bad that, at times, it was difficult to see a couple of yards ahead and we couldn’t go to school (hooray!).

Sadly, there is a risk of TB making a comeback in the so-called developed countries of the West because of the collapse of the global economy, consequent food shortages and price rises and the freer migration across Europe of poor people from the former Soviet-controlled Eastern Block countries – now in the European Union – who are ‘importing’ this highly contagious disease from areas where is still prevalent. Quite naturally, they’re hoping to escape from poverty to a better place where there are jobs, social benefits if they can’t find work and – above all – where there is free healthcare.

All these life-threatening conditions are treatable and I hope the World Health Organisation can galvanise richer countries and the powerful drugs companies to help arrest and alleviate them in addition to crucial campaigns to combat influenza pandemics, malaria and – of course – HIV/AIDS.

Derek Woodcock is a journalist who spent 14 years in newspaper journalism and 25 years in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

January 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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