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Home News centre National Press Releases 2012 Press Releases ›  More than 9,000 TB cases reported in 2011

More than 9,000 TB cases reported in 2011

23 March 2012

Provisional figures released today by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there were 9,042 new cases of tuberculosis (TB) in the UK in 2011. Compared to provisional numbers reported in 2010 (8,587), this is a five per cent increase.


The figures, released in the HPA’s annual TB newsletter ahead of World TB Day on Saturday 24 March, show the main burden of this infection is still in London with 3,588 cases reported in 2011, accounting for 40 per cent of the UK total. According to the provisional data, country of origin was recorded in 8,453 new cases, and almost three quarters (6,270) were in non-UK born people.

TB is an infection caused by bacteria. It usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body. TB is transmitted when someone who has the infection coughs or sneezes, but it requires close prolonged contact in order to spread from person to person.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, head of the TB section at the HPA, said: “Despite the observed increase in TB cases in 2011, this provisional data should be interpreted with caution because numbers are likely to change due to late notifications and de-notification of cases. It is therefore too early to determine whether this is a return to the upward trend of cases seen in the past two decades in the UK.

“TB continues to disproportionately affect those in hard to reach and vulnerable groups, particularly migrants, so it is crucial that we have specific strategies in place to address this. New guidance published today by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence aims to tackle some of the issues which health services encounter when trying to target TB prevention at hard to reach groups, such as immigrants, homeless people, problem drug users and prisoners.

“The HPA welcomes the guidance which provides useful and comprehensive recommendations on the best approaches to identifying TB in vulnerable individuals, as well as ensuring they complete treatment. We also welcome the recommendation that makes local health services responsible for producing plans tailored to meet the needs of their local area.

"In order to reduce TB cases in the future, it’s very important that health commissioners, especially in parts of the country with the highest rates of TB, prioritise the delivery of appropriate clinical and public health TB services."

Both health professionals and the general public should be aware of the following key, simple facts about TB:

  • TB can be fatal if not treated
  • TB is usually curable with a six-month course of antibiotics which must be completed
  • Not completing the full course can encourage drug resistance
  • TB disease develops slowly in the body over a period of several months
  • Symptoms are: fever and night sweats, persistent cough, weight loss, blood in your sputum (phlegm or spit) at any time, a lack of appetite, fatigue and a general sense of feeling unwell
  • The infection requires prolonged and close contact in order to spread from person to person
  • Under half of cases in the UK have the infectious form of the disease
  • Most cases present little or no risk to others
  • It is very uncommon to catch TB from a child with the disease
  • TB treatment is free for the patient in the UK

Notes to editors

1.    For a copy of the HPA’s annual newsletter, please visit: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Tuberculosis/ 

2.    For a copy of the NICE guidance, please visit: http://guidance.nice.org.uk/PH37#

3.    Breakdown of figures

Table 1. Provisional TB case reports by country, UK, 2007-2011

Year

Country

UK total

England

Northern Ireland

Scotland

Wales

No. of cases

% annual change

No. of cases

% annual change

No. of cases

% annual change

No. of cases

% annual change

No. of cases

% annual change

2007

7,837

-1.3

65

6.6

401

4.4

193

14.9

8,496

-0.7

2008

7,998

2.1

59

-9.2

455

13.5

167

-13.5

8,679

2.2

2009

8,423

5.3

42

-28.8

468

2.9

220

31.7

9,153

5.5

2010

7,862

-6.7

68

61.9

507

8.3

150

-31.8

8,587

-6.2

2011

8,418

7.1

63

-7.4

429

-15.4

132

-12.0

9,042

5.3

 

Table 2. Provisional TB case reports by region, England, 2007-2011

Year

Case reports

East
Midlands

East of
England

London

North
East

North
West

South
East

South
West

West
Midlands

Yorkshire &
the Humber

2007

574

359

3,333

199

759

727

273

941

672

2008

535

474

3,415

172

758

692

268

1,027

657

2009

596

486

3,476

168

841

765

337

1,035

719

2010

486

481

3,309

143

843

778

287

887

648

2011

488

525

3,588

112

821

860

320

1,018

686

4.    This year is the HPA is one of the sponsors for the sixth annual conference for the international union against TB and lung disease. For more information  and to book your place visit www.hpa-events.org.uk/TheUnion

5.    Over nine million new cases of TB, and nearly two million deaths from TB, are estimated to occur around the world every year. TB is the leading cause of death among curable infectious diseases. The World Health Organization declared TB a global emergency in 1993.

6.    World TB Day is on 24 March each year and it aims to build public awareness about TB, reminding people that it is a global epidemic and causes several million deaths each year, mostly in developing countries. It commemorates the day when in 1882 Dr Robert Koch discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus (which is a bacteria).

7.    HPA initiatives to help combat TB include a new initiative known as cohort review where health professionals, including doctors, nurses and HPA consultants commit to regular meetings to discuss patients on a case by case basis to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate treatment and that their contacts have been fully risk assessed to avoid further spread of the infection.

A further example is in the West Midlands where the HPA has joined forces with the NHS, local council and the charity TB Alert in an initiative called ‘Target TB’, which aims to work directly with community leaders and groups in hard to reach communities, to reinforce the message that TB is curable, while also raising awareness with GPs of the signs and symptoms and the importance of early diagnosis.  The HPA with support from local councils and the NHS has also created a comprehensive DVD for community use.

8.    The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013, subject to the usual approvals procedures for establishing new bodies, the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk.

9.    For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email colindale-pressoffice@hpa.org.uk. Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.

Last reviewed: 23 March 2012