While rates of TB have consistently dropped across much of the world over recent years, in the UK the illness has actually been on the rise. In 2012 nearly 9,000 new cases were identified.
England and our Western European neighbours shared an incidence rate of 12.7 percent (per 100,000 population) in 2001. But just ten years later, while the Western Europe rate had dropped to 6.8 percent, in England it had risen to 15.9 percent. Given the current trends, we will have a greater number of people with TB than the US by next year.
- There were 8,751 cases in 2012
- 40% of cases were in London
- 73% were among non-UK born
- 7.3% had a history of substance misuse, prison or homelessness
- 1.6% of cases were multi drug-resistant TB
- 4% were among people living with HIV
In recent years, the number of cases of TB has begun to stabilise – at around 9,000 cases annually. This follows a two decade period, beginning in 1987, in which cases of TB rose year on year from a low of 5,745 cases.
Drug-resistant TB is posing an increasing threat in the UK. Case numbers increased by 26 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 1.6% of all cases, where they remained in 2012. Cases of multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) have trebled in 12 years.
Who gets TB?
In 2012, 73% of TB cases were found among people born outside the UK, predominantly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, rates in the UK born population remained at 4.1 cases per 100,000, showing that TB continues to be spread within the UK.
TB remains an illness that is associated with health inequality here. People living with HIV made up 4% of cases, while 7.3% of cases had at least one social risk factor for TB, including a history of problem drug or alcohol misuse, homelessness or imprisonment.
The UK government does not have any current targets for tuberculosis in the UK. As the only TB charity working on tuberculosis nationally, TB Alert would like to see this change. This is why we have been advocating for the development of a National Strategy. We are now part of the national TB Oversight Group developing the strategy over coming months.
Tuberculosis in the UK 2013 Report, Public Health England 2013