TB Figures Stabilise, But Remain High

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Tuberculosis (TB) figures released today by the Health Protection Agency show that the upward climb in numbers we have seen in recent years is beginning to stabilise but scientists are warning the figures are still too high.

In total there were 8,417 cases of TB reported in the UK in 2007, this compares with 8,495 in 2006. This is a small decline of 0.9%. In 2000 there were 6,726 cases in the UK.

Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, Head of the Tuberculosis Section at the Agency's Centre for Infections, said: "While the apparent stabilisation of TB incidence in the UK is encouraging, rates remain at their highest since the late 1980s, and efforts to control and accelerate the downward trend must be kept up.

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"Although levels of TB among the general population continue to be low, in some areas of the UK, such as the inner cities, it is clear that rates of TB remain high. The majority of TB cases in the UK occurred in young adults aged 15-44 years with the London region accounting for the largest proportion (39%) of cases.

"The key to reducing levels of TB is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. TB is a preventable and treatable condition but if left untreated it can be life threatening."

Professor Mike Catchpole, Director of the Agency's Centre for Infections, said: "TB is a global health issue and continues to be a major public health problem in the UK which is why it remains a priority for the Agency.

"Due to the importance the Agency places on controlling TB, we work closely with public health and NHS colleagues on a national, regional and local level to monitor progress towards the goal of controlling and eventually eliminating this disease. For the second year running we have included information from Scotland which allows us a UK-wide perspective on the number of people with TB, enabling us to look at the nature and extent of the disease in the different countries and regions of the UK and take appropriate action based on this information.

"We know the burden of TB exists mainly in high risk groups including hard-to-reach communities in the UK. We are working with the Department of Health on outreach programmes to tackle directly the areas and groups with the highest numbers. "We should consign this major global killer infection to history - this needs many global players."

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