UK records small drop in TB cases
Wednesday 21st August 2013, 12:11AM BST.
There has been a small drop in the number of people suffering from tuberculosis (TB), although the UK still has one of the highest rates in western Europe.
Figures from Public Health England show there were 8,751 new cases of TB in the UK in 2012, slightly down on the 8,963 cases in 2011.
Rates of TB have stabilised at around 14 cases per 100,000 people since the mid-2000s. But future projections suggest the UK could soon have more cases than the US, owing to a dramatic drop in cases there.
London is the most affected area, with 3,426 cases in 2012 (almost 40% of the UK total), followed by the West Midlands with 12%.
Almost three-quarters of cases were among people born in countries where TB is more common, mostly South Asia (60% of cases) and sub-Saharan Africa (22%).
Among people born in the UK, those from ethnic minorities remain most at risk, as do the elderly and people with a history of homelessness, imprisonment or drug or alcohol abuse.
TB is a bacterial infection which usually affects the lungs. It is passed on through coughs and sneezes among people who have been in close contact for some time.
Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection at Public Health England, said: “TB remains a critical public health problem, particularly in parts of London and among people from vulnerable communities.
“Given current trends, within two years we are likely to have more new cases of TB each year in the UK than in the whole of the United States.”
Dr Lucy Thomas, head of TB Surveillance for Public Health England, said: “TB is a preventable and treatable condition but, if left untreated, can be life threatening.
“Efforts to control the spread of this infection must remain a public health priority.”
She added: “To reduce the risk of active TB disease in people coming to the UK from high incidence countries, it is essential that new migrants have good access to screening and diagnostic services.”
Drug resistance to TB treatment remains a problem, according to Public Health England, although the number of cases of extensively drug-resistant TB cases was two in 2012, compared with six in 2011.