In the first half of 2023, cases of tuberculosis (TB) in England saw a 7% rise compared to the same period in 2022, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
There were 2,408 notifications in the first two quarters of 2023, up from 2,251 in 2022. While England is considered a low-incidence country for TB, progress toward elimination has stalled.
The UKHSA has emphasised that TB affects not only other countries but also increasing numbers of people domestically.
TB notification rates in England are highest among individuals originally from regions where TB is prevalent and in large urban areas associated with higher deprivation levels.
Inclusion health groups, comprising socially excluded individuals, such as the homeless and those in contact with the criminal justice system, are also disproportionately affected.
Barriers to accessing interventions, diagnostic services, self-administering treatment, and follow-ups contribute to the disproportionate impact on these groups.
Dr Esther Robinson, Head of the TB Unit at UKHSA, highlighted the importance of early detection and treatment. She said, TB is curable and preventable, and timely intervention is crucial for both individual recovery and preventing further transmission.
However, despite the progress made towards its elimination, TB remains a significant public health concern in the UK.
Individuals who exhibit symptoms relevant to TB should undergo testing promptly. Starting appropriate treatment is crucial, not only for the affected individual’s recovery but also for preventing the disease’s onward transmission.
As the winter season approaches, it is vital to recognise that not every persistent cough and fever is necessarily linked to flu or Covid-19. A persistent cough lasting more than three weeks, often accompanied by mucus, can be indicative of various conditions, including TB.
Seeking medical attention and testing for TB is essential for accurate diagnosis and timely intervention.
Tuberculosis progresses gradually, often taking weeks, months, or even years after infection before symptoms become noticeable.
Individuals who suspect they might be at risk are advised to contact their GP.
Despite concerns about multi-drug resistance in TB treatment, recent data indicates that the proportion of people with multi-drug resistant TB has remained relatively stable in recent years.