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Tuberculosis sweeps Paris housing estate

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17:53 CEST+02:00

Medical authorities are scrambling to deal with an outbreak of tuberculosis that has affected both adults and children on a deprived housing estate in the Paris suburbs.

AFP reports that doctors found 22 cases of the infectious disease after testing a group of 500 inhabitants of the Chêne-Pointu estate in Clichy-sous-Bois where two out of three people live below the poverty threshold. A further thirty cases were discovered where the infection was latent.

"It's unusual to see children affected," said Bernard Kirschen, an official with the regional health authority, ARS (Agence Régionale de Santé). "Usually, it's adults who have lived for a long period abroad in difficult conditions," he told AFP.

From September 28th, a two-week voluntary testing scheme will be in operation for the 6,000 residents of the estate. 

Tuberculosis is contagious and can be treated with antibiotics although it can be lethal. It usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. 

Chêne-Pointu is known as the area as the area where disturbances in the autumn of 2005 became full-scale riots which spread to other parts of the country.

Tuberculosis is "linked to poor living and social conditions and is a sign of poverty," said the director of public health for the Île-de-France region.

Local mayor, Claude Dilain, issued a statement deploring "the social and sanitary conditions of the area." He added that "overcrowding in the living quarters could be one of the factors contributing to the multiplication of cases of tuberculosis."

Public health officials are now working to inform locals of how they can get tested by making house to house visits and organizing public meetings.

"There is no reason for people to refuse having this test which would allow them to be treated," said Kirschen. "Tuberculosis can be treated well unless it is detected too late."

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