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UK TB cases highest for nearly 30 years

4th November 2010

The number of cases of tuberculosis in the UK has reached its highest level for almost three decades.

lungsxray

Last year the number of cases was 9,040, according to latest figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), up from 8,600 the previous year.

Cases have been rising since the 1980s with many of the new cases of TB - which is an infectious bacterial disease of the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, chest pains and weight loss - thought to be among people who caught the disease abroad.

Two thirds of the cases were among people born outside the UK, mostly in Africa and the Indian sub-continent, with other cases among the homeless, drug users and prisoners.

Figures have also shown that the number of drug-resistant TB cases have doubled since 2000 to 389.

Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, head of TB surveillance at the HPA, said: “We are concerned. TB is a preventable and treatable condition, but if left untreated can be life-threatening.”

However, the HPA also said more needs to be done to try to tackle the TB problem and wants local health managers in areas where there is a major problem - particularly London with nearly half of England's total cases - to put steps in place to diagnose and treat the condition in the places with the biggest problems.

TB is an infectious disease transmitted through droplets from the lungs of people with the active form of the disease but can be treated by antibiotics, though 300 people a year do die from it.

 

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