Tuberculosis :: Cases of Tuberculosis rise steeply during 2005

Cases of Tuberculosis (TB) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have increased by 10.8% from 7,321 cases reported in 2004 to 8,113 in 2005 according to new figures released today by the Health Protection Agency.

Dr John Watson, Head of the Respiratory Diseases Department at the Agency, said ?Levels of TB have been increasing year on year since the late 1980s. This is, however, the largest increase we have seen in any one year since 1999 when we introduced a new surveillance system which provides us with more detailed information about patterns of TB.?

London had the highest proportion of cases in 2005 (43%), having increased from 3,129 in 2004 to 3,479 in 2005. The regions with the highest number of new cases were the North West (588 in 2004 to 757 cases in 2005), East Midlands (443 in 2004 to 556 in 2005) and the East of England (395 in 2004 to 483 in 2005).

The North East and Northern Ireland saw a decrease in cases with 149 in 2004 compared to 134 in 2005 and 81 cases in 2004 compared to 76 in 2005 respectively.

The number of cases in Wales remained the same at 191 cases.

Dr Watson continued, ?The largest increase was seen amongst patients who weren’t born in the UK, from 4,696 reported in 2004 to 5,310 in 2005. However, only 22% of these non-UK born patients in 2005 arrived in the UK during the past two years. This suggests that the increase is not a result of a large number of individuals arriving recently with TB but rather a combination of TB disease developing in individuals who may have been infected for some time and new infections acquired in the UK, or as a result of travel to other countries where TB is common. Levels of TB in the UK born population remain stable.?

Professor Peter Borriello, Director of the Centre for Infections, said, ?An increase of this magnitude over the course of one year is a concern, and as a result we will be monitoring the situation closely over the next few years. TB is an important public health issue and we have been working closely with public health and NHS colleagues on a national, regional and local level to improve the level of information we have about TB. This more timely and comprehensive information tells us more about the groups that are most affected by the disease and the areas where TB is more prevalent and will assist in driving down the levels of TB that we are currently observing.?

?TB disease is a preventable and treatable condition. The key to reducing levels is through early diagnosis and treatment of the infection. To enable this it is crucial that we raise awareness amongst both the public and health professionals of the symptoms of TB. Once cases are diagnosed it is crucial to trace their close contacts to ensure they are also not infected and to also ensure that prescribed courses of treatment are completed.

1.TB is a disease caused by a germ usually spread in the air. It is caught from another person who has TB of the lungs when that person coughs or sneezes. TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body. Infection with the TB germ may not develop into TB disease. Only some people with TB in the lungs are infectious to other people and even then, you need close and prolonged contact with them to be at risk of being infected. TB disease develops slowly in the body, and it usually takes several months for symptoms to appear. Any of the following symptoms may suggest TB:

Fever and night sweats
Persistent cough
Losing weight
Blood in your sputum (phlegm or spit) at any time

2. Data also published today in the Agency’s TB Newsletter provides detailed data on the patterns of TB in England, TB incidents and outbreak surveillance, the extent of resistance to anti-tuberculosis drugs, recent trends in human cases of bovine tuberculosis and the outcome of treatment in patients.

The data for 2005 show that:

8,113 cases of TB were reported in England Wales and Northern Ireland. These data represent a rate of 14.7 cases per 100,000 population in 2005 compared with a rate 13.4 per 100,000 in 2004.

The highest rate of disease was observed in London (46.3/100,000), which accounted for 42.9% of the total number of reported cases, followed by the West Midlands (17.5/100,000) East Midlands (12.9/100,000) and Yorkshire and Humberside (11.4/100,000). The North East and Northern Ireland saw a decrease in cases with 149 in 2004 compared to 134 in 2005 and 81 cases in 2004 compared to 76 in 2005 respectively.

The Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group made up the highest proportion of cases reported in 2005 (3,075 cases compared to 2,574 in 2004) followed by Black African (1,932 cases compared to 1,766 to 2004) and White (1,721 in 2005 compared to 1,729 in 2004).

3. There has been a steady increase in the number of new diagnoses of TB over recent years:

2000 ? 6,323
2001 ? 6,652
2002 ? 6,861
2003 ? 6,970
2004 ? 7,321
2005 ? 8,113

4. The Agency works with health professionals throughout the country to improve prevention and control of TB. Activities include support in the diagnosis of TB, surveillance, including the occurrence of drug resistance, advice in the management of outbreaks of TB, investigation into clinical, social and environmental factors that may complicate the management of TB as well as teaching, research and the provision of information.

5. The Agency’s annual surveillance report on TB, Focus on Tuberculosis which will contain a fuller analysis of these data with comment, will be published in late November.


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