Ellon Probus Club hears talk on tuberculosis history

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Ellon Probus Club president Norman Davidson welcomed Dr James Friend to speak on the history and treatment of tuberculosis.

James, Edinburgh born and Cambridge trained, was an eminent pulmonary-thoracic practitioner during his working career, much of which was spent in the Grampian area. TB is best known as a scourge of the human race where historically it has been responsible for 20% of all deaths.

Archaeological evidence shows evidence of TB occurring as far back as the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt.

TB occurs primarily in the lungs but can spread throughout the body organs and joints.

Currently some nine million cases of TB are recorded annually, resulting in around one million deaths. In Scotland some 500 cases are recorded annually with 50 occurring in the North-east.

Initially there was a close, but not constant, tie-in between TB and poverty and infection consequently carried an unfortunate anti-social stigma.

Early treatment was restricted to isolation in special hospitals or sanatoria, many of which were present in the North-east. Cures were based on a regime of fresh air, good food and exercise.

Successful treatment for TB was first established in 1948 with the introduction of Streptomycin. The disease is now largely controlled in the Western World but in Africa, east Asia and South America it remains a major health problem.

Preventative vaccination, with BCG vaccine, is available, at least to children in the western world.

Overall it has been demonstrated that TB is best controlled by education and application of high public health standards.