We need people – people like those in TB Alert, who are focused and ambitious and care for people at grass roots in the UK, India and Africa. Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership
TB never went away in the UK. From a low of 5,745 cases in 1987, rates of tuberculosis began to increase in the UK for a period of over 20 years. Rates are now thought to be stabilising at around 9,000 cases annually. While anyone can be affected by TB, TB in the UK remains closely associated with health inequalities.
In 2012, 73% of England’s 8,751 cases of TB were found in non-white ethnic groups. Though migration to Britain from high TB incidence countries provides some explanation, this is by no means the only factor. Among non-UK-born TB cases, people were found to develop TB six years, on average, after entering the UK. This suggests that TB is being transmitted among migrant communities within the UK, or that people from migrant communities are experiencing conditions that cause latent TB to reactivate. This correlates with evidence that people in migrant communities find it more difficult to access health services and often experience social and economic inequality in the UK.
People with weakened immune systems related to homelessness, substance misuse or through long-term illness – particularly HIV – are also at increased risk from tuberculosis. Stress, poor nutrition and poor and overcrowded living conditions – factors often associated with low-incomes – can make an individual more vulnerable to TB.
Early diagnosis and treatment of TB is essential, to reduce the risk of long-term damage to affected individuals' health and transmission of infectious TB to others. But a lack of awareness about the illness, misconceptions that TB has gone away or can’t be cured, or a simple failure to recognise symptoms as TB often delay people from visiting a doctor. Whilst deaths from TB are rare in the UK, delays in diagnosis are not – with significant implications for patient health and efforts to control TB.
Read more: UK TB statistics
Our work in the UK:
» The Truth About TB programme