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Tuberculosis rates fall but remain among highest in Europe

Infection rates for tuberculosis in the UK have fallen slightly but remain among the highest in Western Europe, a Public Health England study has shown.

The Tuberculosis in the UK 2013 report found that there were 8,751 UK cases reported in 2012, representing 4.1 infections per 100,000 on the population, compared with 8,963 in 2011. Rates have stabilised over the last seven years following increases from 1990 to 2005.

The authors called on CCGs to ‘prioritise the delivery of appropriate clinical and public health services for TB’.

The report concluded: ‘Following the increase in the incidence of TB in the UK from 1990 to 2005, rates have stabilised over the past seven years. However, despite considerable efforts to improve TB prevention, treatment and control, the incidence of TB in the UK remains high compared to most other Western European countries.’

The incidence of TB is particularly high among people born in countries with a high TB burden, with some non-UK ethnic minority groups experiencing TB rates 17 times higher than that national average.

Dr Lucy Thomas, Public Health England’s head of TB surveillance and one of the authors of the report, said that screening and treating of all migrants from high incidence countries for latent TB infection was important.

She added: ‘We need to ensure that new migrants are identified for latent TB infection screening, and are rapidly diagnosed. If they develop active disease there must be no barriers to accessing primary health care services.’

The large majority of UK cases in 2012 were concentrated in large metropolitan areas such as London, which accounted for 40% of the UK total. The West Midlands accounted for 12%.

Dr Thomas added: ‘Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to reducing TB levels in the UK.’