16 March 2010Health Protection Agency publishes new figures for 2009
Provisional figures released today by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show that cases of tuberculosis (TB) in the UK have increased by 5.5%, from 8,679 reported in 2008 to 9,153 in 2009.
The figures, released in the agency's annual TB newsletter ahead of World TB Day on 24th March, show the main burden of this infection is still in London with 3,476 cases reported in 2009, accounting for 38% of the UK total. The West Midlands region reported the second highest number of cases, accounting for 11.3% of cases. A rise in cases was seen in eight out of nine regions. Nearly three-quarters of cases occur in people born outside the UK.
TB is a preventable infection and is spread from person to person when someone coughs or sneezes. Close and prolonged contact with someone with active lung TB is needed to be at risk of being infected.
Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, a TB expert at the HPA's Centre for Infections, said: "The increase we have seen this year is the biggest rise in the number of cases since 2005.
"This increase shows that we must remain vigilant in our fight against TB. This is an entirely preventable and curable infection, but it can be fatal if prompt diagnosis and treatment are not given.
"People need to be aware of the main symptoms of TB, which include a fever and night sweats; a persistent cough; weight loss; and blood in your sputum (phlegm or spit). If you experience two or three of these symptoms for a period of more than three weeks, you should go to your GP."
Both health professionals and the general public should be aware of the following key, simple facts about TB:
Professor Maria Zambon, Director of the HPA's Centre for Infections, said:
"Although some progress is being made, the consistent increase in the number of cases of TB in the UK means our efforts to control the disease must be strengthened. Both health professionals and the general public alike must remain vigilant if we are to eradicate this major global killer infection."
In May 2010 the HPA will launch the national strain typing service, which aims to improve understanding of how TB is spread in the community and help to identify at-risk groups. This will help to inform how public health resources are allocated and, in turn, prevent outbreaks and improve diagnosis and treatment of cases.
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Last reviewed: 14 June 2010