Cases of tuberculosis (TB) have risen above pre-coronavirus cases, and a heath expert has said “collective action” needs to be taken.

Figures published February 15th by the UKHSA in its TB annual report show tuberculosis cases in England in 2022 were stable compare to 2021 (4,380 in 2022 compared to 4,411 in 2021).

But additional provisional data indicates cases of TB in England rose by 10.7 percent in 2023 compared to 2022 (4,850 compared to 4,380). The rise signals a rebound of TB cases to above the pre-COVID-19-pandemic numbers.

While England remains a low incidence country for TB, the current trajectory takes the UK further from the pathway to meet World Health Organization (WHO) 2035 elimination targets. UKHSA is working with partners to investigate the reasons behind the increase in TB.

TB is a bacterial infection that most frequently affects the lungs, which is when it is infectious.

Symptoms include high temperatures, drenching night sweats, loss of appetite, weight loss and a cough.

According to Dr Esther Robinson, Head of the TB Unit at UKHSA, said: “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 can be treated with a prolonged course of antibiotics but can be serious, particularly if not treated.

Dr Robinson 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.”

The proportion of TB notifications accounted for by people born outside the UK has been steadily rising for a number of years.

But the increase in TB in 2023 has now been seen in both UK born and non-UK born populations in England.

The largest rises in cases have been in the urban centres of London, the North West and West Midlands. However, there have also been increases in the South West and North East regions where TB incidence is low.

TB continues to be associated with deprivation and is more common in large urban areas.

People born outside the UK, especially in countries in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), Africa (Eritrea, Nigeria) and Eastern Europe (Romania) experience the highest number of cases.

For those born in the UK, TB is more common among those who experience homelessness, drug and alcohol dependence and have had contact with the criminal justice system. TB rates are much higher in UK born individuals from ethnic groups other than white.

UKHSA continues to work with NHSE and other partners on the TB action plan, which sets out steps to improve the prevention and detection of TB, along with increasing capacity in the TB workforce.

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