TB cases in England hit lowest ever levels

Author: Mark Gould

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New cases of tuberculosis (TB) in England have fallen to the lowest levels since records began according to new data from Public Health England (PHE).

Following action by PHE, the NHS and others, there was a 44% drop in new diagnoses from the peak in 2011 to 2018 (from 8,280 to 4,672), with an 8.4% fall in diagnoses between 2017 and 2018 alone. They are working towards the World Health Organisation’s goal to halve TB incidence by 2025 and ultimately eliminate the disease.

While huge strides have been made to reduce TB rates PHE says, further work needs to be done to eliminate the disease in England. The most deprived 10% of the population have a rate of TB more than seven times higher than the least deprived 10%. People born outside the UK have a rate 13 times higher than people born in the UK. PHE says people, especially those from these communities, should be aware of the symptoms and make sure they visit their GP if they are concerned.

PHE has played a key role in driving down the rates of TB in England, working with NHS England and other partner organisations to implement the ‘Collaborative Tuberculosis Strategy for England 2015-2020’. This includes raising awareness and tackling TB in vulnerable populations, ensuring patients successfully complete treatment, and strengthening surveillance of TB rates.

As well as encouraging those with “active” TB infection to seek treatment, PHE has worked with partners to implement testing for latent TB in those arriving from countries with high rates of the disease. A latent TB infection occurs when an individual is carrying the TB bacteria but doesn’t have any symptoms. The bacteria can however go on to cause disease in the future.

PHE's head of TB strategy Dr Sarah Anderson, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see a continued decline in TB cases in England which shows that the interventions we are putting in place are having an impact. However, TB still affects nearly 5,000 people a year in the UK and many people are simply unaware of the symptoms and impact of the disease. This World TB Day we are calling for anyone who has possible TB symptoms, or thinks they may be at risk of having latent TB, to speak to their healthcare professional to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, to minimise the chance of long-term ill health and onward transmission.”

OnMedica

Editorial team, Wilmington Healthcare

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