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16th Feb 2024

Warnings issued over rise of TB cases in the UK

Charlie Herbert

rise in tb cases

Experts have warned the public to be wary after TB cases continue to rise across the UK.

Cases of tuberculosis (TB) have now risen above the level they were at before the Covid pandemic, with health bodies saying “collective action” needs to be taken.

TB is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs and throat. It is spread through coughs and sneezes, and can be serious if left untreated.

New figures published on Thursday by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed there were more than 4,500 cases of TB in 2023. This was an increase of 10.7 per cent compared to the year before.

The largest rises in cases have been in the urban centres of London, the West Midlands and North West England. South West England and the North East have also seen increases in TB infections.

In its annual TB report, the UKHSA highlighted the main symptoms of TB, which are:

  • A cough that lasts more than three weeks and usually has mucus
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • High temperature

Dr Esther Robinson, Head of the TB Unit at UKHSA, said: “We need collective action to tackle TB and we are working with partners across the health system to understand how we can best refocus efforts to stamp out this preventable and treatable infection.

“Not every persistent cough, along with a fever, is caused by flu or COVID-19. A cough that usually has mucus and lasts longer than three weeks can be caused by a range of other issues, including TB. Please speak to your GP if you think you could be at risk.”

TB usually only spread after prolonged exposure to someone infected with the illness.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, TB was one of the deadliest diseases in the world. By the 1800s it was estimated to be the cause of nearly 25 per cent of all deaths in Europe.

Scientific research and vaccines have managed to drastically cut infection rates, but in recent years progress has stalled in the battle against the illness.

The World Health Organisation says some 1.3 million people died from TB in 2022.

Whilst England remains a low incidence country for TB, the rise in cases could hamper the WHO’s aim of ending the global epidemic by 2035.

For more information about tuberculosis, its symptoms, and how its treated, visit thyoue NHS website here.

Related links:

Warning issued as cases of highly contagious ‘100 day cough’ reach decade high in UK