Provisional Health Protection Agency figures have suggested there was a five per cent increase in new cases of tuberculosis reported in the UK last year.

Ahead of World TB Day [24 Mar] the figures showed there were 9,042 new cases of TB in 2011 up from 8,587 the previous year with the main burden of the infection still in London with 3,588 cases reported in 2011, accounting for 40 per cent of the UK total.

According to the provisional data, country of origin was recorded in 8,453 new cases, and almost three quarters (6,270) were in non-UK born people.

TB is an infection caused by bacteria. It usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body.

TB is transmitted when someone who has the infection coughs or sneezes, but it requires close prolonged contact in order to spread from person to person.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, head of the TB section at the HPA, said: "Despite the observed increase in TB cases in 2011, this provisional data should be interpreted with caution because numbers are likely to change due to late notifications and de-notification of cases. It is therefore too early to determine whether this is a return to the upward trend of cases seen in the past two decades in the UK.

"TB continues to disproportionately affect those in hard to reach and vulnerable groups, particularly migrants, so it is crucial that we have specific strategies in place to address this.

New guidance published today by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence aims to tackle some of the issues which health services encounter when trying to target TB prevention at hard to reach groups, such as immigrants, homeless people, problem drug users and prisoners.

"The HPA welcomes the guidance which provides useful and comprehensive recommendations on the best approaches to identifying TB in vulnerable individuals, as well as ensuring they complete treatment. We also welcome the recommendation that makes local health services responsible for producing plans tailored to meet the needs of their local area.

Posted 23/03/2012 by penny.hosie@pavpub.com