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Epidemics and how to avoid them

November 03 2012
Homeless people more likely to become infected with TB, HIV and Hepatitis C says new report

Homeless people worldwide are significantly more likely to become infected with TB, HIV and Hepatitis C than those in housing, according to a recent study at the University of Oxford.

The study also noted that rough sleepers had higher than average rates of other infectious diseases, including hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, foot problems and skin infections.

In Britain, specifically, TB rates were around 34 times higher in homeless people than in the general population, and the prevalence of hepatitis C infection was almost 50 times higher.

HIV and Hepatitis C are blood-borne viruses that can be contracted by unprotected sex, sharing of needles for drugs use or tattoos, or other contact with infected blood.

TB is a bacterial infection spread through air droplets when people cough or sneeze. It kills an estimated 1.4 million people annually and its symptoms can be hard to distinguish from general coughs and colds picked up when sleeping rough.

TB symptoms can include a persistent cough that brings up thick phlegm (which may be bloody), breathlessness, weight loss, lack of appetite, a high temperature of 38C or above, extreme tiredness and a sense of feeling unwell.

TB can now be treated successfully with a course of antibiotics, but it is vital that if you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself you visit a doctor.

An individual carrying active TB can infect another 10 to 15 people a year.