Update: tuberculosis today
Tuesday 18th March
Tuberculosis (TB) rates have stabilised in recent years, but the UK still sees more cases than most of its Western European neighbours. Here are the latest headline statistics.
For the majority of the UK population, the good news is that the risk of infection is low. Unless you are from a high-risk group, you are unlikely to come in to contact with or be affected by the bacteria that cause TB. The latest available figures from Public Health England*, however, state that there were still 8,751 cases reported in 2012. Of these, approximately three in four were born outside the UK, with the majority coming from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where TB is a known risk to public health.
Back home, most cases occur in densely built-up urban areas, with patients falling into the following groups: young adults, immigrants from countries with a high incidence of TB and individuals with other high risk factors for TB. These social risk factors include drug and/or alcohol misuse, and homelessness. In terms of geography, London accounts for the highest number of cases (close to 40 per cent), with the West Midlands coming in second at 12 per cent.
A spike in diagnoses was recorded between 1990 and 2005, but over the intervening seven years these rates have stabilised, representing an encouraging shift in the right direction. In terms of the strains of TB resistant to standard treatment regimens, the number of cases resistant to any “first line” drug has decreased over a 12-month period, to 7.4 per cent, while multi-drug resistant (MDR) cases remain constant at 1.6 per cent. Again, a positive sign of progress.
Nine in every ten patients with harder-to-treat MDR tuberculosis were born outside the UK. To find out more about MDR tuberculosis, what makes it so challenging and the research being carried out to improve the prognosis for patients, read our Q&A with TB Alert's medical expert, Professor Peter Davies
Find out more about the symptoms of TB. This is just one of the programmes run by TB Alert, the UK’s national TB charity. To learn about the important work the charity is doing in the UK, India and Africa, visit the main website.
Members of benenden health can contact the 24-hour GP advice line if they are concerned about their health and would like to speak to a doctor.
* Source: Tuberculosis in the UK, report 2013; Public Health England