Glasgow area found to have shocking levels of 'Victorian diseases'

Glasgow is the worst part of Scotland for some of the most dangerous so-called ‘Victorian’ diseases, new data has shown.
Glasgow sees more cases of tuberculosis than anywhere else in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)Glasgow sees more cases of tuberculosis than anywhere else in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)
Glasgow sees more cases of tuberculosis than anywhere else in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)

The west coast city saw nearly half of all of Scotland’s cases of tuberculosis (TB) in 2017/18, and saw the highest numbers of the bacteria which causes scarlet fever.

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the high number of TB cases are due to the “levels of deprivation and alcohol misuse” in the city.

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Scotland as a whole saw nearly 300 cases of TB in 2017/18, 584 cases of whooping cough, and 451 cases of mumps.

Where are the hotspots?

Data provided by NHS Scotland following a Freedom of Information request from this newspaper showed that Glasgow was by far the worst city in Scotland for TB, with 136 cases of the disease.

NHS Lothian, which includes Edinburgh, saw only 40, and NHS Grampian (covering Aberdeen) had 33 confirmed cases.

TB is caused by a bacterial infection with the very young and elderly most at risk.

Edinburgh and Lothian saw the highest numbers of mumps cases with 310, almost 70 per cent of the total cases in Scotland.

Diseases most common in urban areas

Whooping cough, caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs, is most prevalent in Aberdeen and the surrounding area, with 161 out of the total 584 cases treated by NHS Grampian.

Scarlet fever, which used to affect nearly half a million people a year in 1921, has seen an increase.

In 2018 in England, the number of cases was more than 30,000, the highest since 1960,.

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In Scotland, however, the illness is not a ‘notifiable disease’ (a condition which must be recorded by staff), with confirmed cases of the bacteria which causes the disease used as a proxy.

In 2017/2018, there were more than 5,100 cases, with nearly 1,500 cases in Glasgow and more than 1,000 cases in Edinburgh.

Sanitation to blame for ‘Victorian diseases’

Historically devastating diseases such as typhoid - which is most commonly caused by poor sanitation or contaminated water and used to kill up to 20 per cent of those infected - were found across Scotland.

Five people in Glasgow and Edinburgh, along with one in Aberdeen and another treated by NHS Highland, were infected by the disease.

Cases of measles, globally on the rise in developed countries partly due to the anti-vaccination movement, were also confirmed in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife, with six confirmed cases in Scotland.

What are the medical professionals saying?

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the area has seen a reduction in the number of TB cases every year for nine consecutive years.

He added, “We have a highly skilled team of TB nurses which looks after all patients once diagnosed, supports them through treatment and carries out contact tracing where necessary.

“All new patients are also discussed at multi-disciplinary team meetings to ensure they receive the most appropriate investigations, treatment and care.”

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In Edinburgh, Professor Alison McCallum, the Director of Public Health and Health Policy in NHS Lothian said the high levels of mumps in the city was due to the high number of students coming from outwith Scotland.

She said: “Most outbreaks of mumps have been observed in the student age population with Edinburgh having a higher proportion of young people coming from outside Scotland.

“The most effective strategy for preventing the transmission of mumps is vaccination with the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine.

"We promote and run national immunisation programmes to encourage vaccination and increase immunity against preventable infections like mumps."

Are ‘Victorian diseases’ making a comeback?

The UK government said the cases of so-called ‘Victorian diseases’ said in a blog post that certain diseases have made a comeback.

They stated whooping cough and scarlet fever have seen dramatic increases in recent years.

However, the blog also said that Victorian diseases had “never completely disappeared”.

They said, ”For the most part in the UK, ‘Dickensian diseases’ are at nowhere near the scale nor have the same impact on public health they once did.

“And the good news is that all can be preventable through either good hygiene, vaccination, or getting the correct nutrients.”