Medical Law experts at Irwin Mitchell are calling for increased awareness of tuberculosis, particularly among people who travel to high-risk countries affected by the disease, ahead of World TB Day tomorrow (24th March).
The day is designed to build public awareness that tuberculosis remains an epidemic in much of the world and causes the death of millions of people.
Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, who have seen cases in which GPs have failed to refer patients for tests or misdiagnosed the condition, are calling for medical professionals to ensure they do their utmost to recognise the tell-tale symptoms of the disease and act quickly in high-risk cases.
Lisa Jordan, a partner and medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “TB kills nearly a million and a half people every year and nearly nine million individuals suffer from this largely preventable and curable disease. With more awareness we can look to reduce this number.
“TB is thankfully no longer common in this country, but the number of people travelling to areas with a high mortality rate for the illness – like India or African nations – means that many remain at risk of coming into contact with the bacteria.
“Tragically, we do still see cases which result in people becoming seriously ill or dying due to lack of awareness of the symptoms. These include a nasty cough, weight loss, fatigue, a high temperature, shortness of breath and night time sweats.
“I urge anyone who thinks they may be showing these and fear they could have come into contact with the bacteria, to seek medical assistance.”
Irwin Mitchell is currently representing the family of 15-year-old Alina Sarag, who had been diagnosed with latent tuberculosis in April 2009, after an outbreak at her school but, following treatment, medical staff thought that she was back to full health.
However, after a holiday to Pakistan in August the following year, Alina once again fell ill and began vomiting as well as developing a cough.
Her devastated father, Sultan Sarag, said: “Over a period of five months we took her to every hospital but no one seemed to be able to diagnose what was wrong with her.
“The GP initially diagnosed a stomach bug, as did various other hospitals around the West Midlands, and despite several attendances to her GP and hospital she was not diagnosed with tuberculosis.
“On the 6th January, Alina was rushed to Birmingham Children’s Hospital by ambulance after she became very poorly and it was only then that she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Sadly it was too late and she died that day. The whole family are still struggling to come to terms with her death.
“Although nothing will bring her back I hope all hospital trusts ensure staff are well trained and fully aware of tuberculosis so the same thing can’t happen to anyone else.”
Medical law expert Thomas Riis-Bristow, who is representing Alina’s devastated family, said: “Alina’s death highlights the need for awareness of the risks of Tuberculosis and the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment, especially with patients presenting from high risk groups.”
An inquest into Alina’s death will take place in May 2012.