A market trader from Bermondsey said he felt “lucky to be alive” on Tuesday as he helped raise awareness for Tuberculosis on World TB Day.
Clive Boyton, 52, was unexpectedly diagnosed with the disease three years ago when he developed a painful throat that didn’t improve.
He said: “No one knows exactly how I got it but in the ‘90s I did lots of travelling around south Asia. The doctor said I probably got it there and it could have been dormant in my system all that time.”
Clive talked of TB’s “stigma” after accidentally passing it onto two family members, probably through moisture droplets from coughs or sneezes.
“About 30 friends and family had to be tested for TB including my son and mother-in-law, who both became carriers.
“There is a stigma attached to Tuberculosis, which I noticed in my own case, and sometimes I felt unpopular. But I do feel lucky – lucky to be alive.”
Margaret Ogedengbe, nurse manager at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and head of the trust’s TB team, warned that the disease particularly affects certain groups.
She said: “TB can affect anyone but it’s often vulnerable people with social problems living in poor housing conditions who are at risk.
“We are also beginning to see younger people who are out enjoying life but not necessarily looking after their health.”
TB clinics are run at St Thomas’ Hospital and King’s College Hospital, and in the 21 years since Southwark and Lambeth launched a TB service over 4,500 of the boroughs’ residents have beaten the disease. Anyone displaying symptoms is encouraged to go for a check-up.
Tuberculosis devastated society during the 1800s, when it caused roughly one-in-four deaths.
While its impact is not as serious as it was then, it has increased steadily over the last 30 years. 3,000 Londoners were diagnosed with the contagious disease in 2013.
The bacterial disease can affect any part of the body but most commonly affects the lungs. This is also the most contagious form, and can be spread through moisture droplets from coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include chronic cough, tiredness, night sweat, loss of appetite, fever, swellings and weight loss.
The disease can be prevented with a vaccine and cured using antibiotics.