Tuberculosis on the rise in the UK

Provisional figures released by the Health Protection Agency for 2006 show that cases of tuberculosis (TB) in England , Wales and Northern Ireland have increased 2% from 8,008 cases reported in 2005 to 8,171 in 2006.

To coincide with World TB day on 24 March the Agency has released the figures in their Tuberculosis newsletter. London continues to account for the highest proportion of cases reported (42%) but provisional figures show there has been a decrease from 3,541 in 2005 to 3,445 in 2006.

Dr John Watson , Head of the Respiratory Diseases Department at the Agency, said: "Since the late 1980s the number of people diagnosed with TB has risen every year and, in line with this trend, 2006 shows a slight increase.

"During 2005 we saw a large rise in the number of cases reported. We therefore need to be cautious about predicting future trends based on 2006 figures alone. At this stage, it is too early to tell whether these provisional results for 2006 signify a slowing in the overall trend of increase in the number of cases."

Professor Peter Borriello , Director of Centre for Infections, said: "The fact that we are still seeing more new cases diagnosed each year means we need to continue heightened efforts with those most affected by TB.

"Worldwide, TB is the leading cause of death in terms of curable infectious diseases, but fortunately it remains very low in most parts of the UK . We need to emphasize to everyone that TB is a preventable and treatable condition. The key to reducing levels of TB is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of the infection. This is where we must put our effort. Work on improving TB vaccines is also critical.

"Sharing information on the occurrence of tuberculosis, and the various initiatives that are underway to try and combat the disease, will help everyone providing TB services to carry out their work more effectively."

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