Tuberculosis at lowest levels since 1960, reports PHE

Tuberculosis at lowest levels since 1960, reports PHE

New cases of tuberculosis in England have fallen to the lowest levels since records began in 1960, according to new data published by Public Health England (PHE) ahead of World TB Day (Sunday March 24).

Data shows a 44 per cent drop in new diagnoses from the peak in 2011 to 2018 (from 8,280 to 4,672), with an 8.4 per cent fall in diagnoses between 2017 and 2018, as PHE works towards the World Health Organisation (WHO) goal to halve TB incidence by 2025.

The most deprived 10 per cent of the population have a rate of TB more than seven times higher than the least deprived 10 per cent. People born outside the UK have a rate 13 times higher.

PHE has worked with NHS England and other partner organisations to implement the Collaborative tuberculosis strategy for England: 2015 to 2020. This includes raising awareness and tackling TB in vulnerable populations, ensuring patients successfully complete treatment, and strengthening surveillance of TB rates.

PHE has also 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.

Dr Sarah Anderson, Head of TB Strategy at Public Health England, 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."

Professor Mike Morgan, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Respiratory Disease, said:

"One of our priorities has been to drive improvements in the way TB is managed and it is excellent news that, thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, rates are now significantly lower. However, we must not rest on our laurels and with PHE we will continue to work hard towards the eradication of TB.

"The risk factors for tuberculosis include a weakened immune system, poor quality housing, alcohol and substance misuse, or time spent in a country with high TB rates.

"While cases are declining overall, still more needs to be done to reach those in under-served populations to ensure they are aware of symptoms and can access treatment."

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