One of the great achievements of the NHS has
been to bring about an enormous reduction in levels of tuberculosis.
In Glasgow and the larger towns of the West of Scotland, it was
as a disease of the lungs that TB crippled and killed most of its
victims. Over-crowed homes and pubs were ideal places for the infection
to pass from one person to another.
During the 1950s, new drugs, especially Steptomycin,
gave the opportunity to deal effectively with TB. In an effort to
identify all TB sufferers and treat them simultaneously (so as to
prevent mutual re-infection) a massive Chest X-ray Campaign was
conducted in Glasgow in March 1957.
Thirty-seven mobile X-ray vans converged on Glasgow
from all over the country. In the following five weeks, 714,915
people were screened and 2,842 new TB cases indentified and treated.
The campaign was widely regarded as a triumph
of medical science and of organisation and record-keeping. Clerical
staff had to create huge numbers of record cards, maintain a massive
card index and send out hundreds of thousands of letters and postcards.
Although TB infection is a fraction of the levels
before the 1950s, it has never gone away. There has always been
a background level of infection of two hundred or so cases each
year as ever, it is the poorest and most vulnerable in our
society who tend to be affected.
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