TB figures continue to increase in the United Kingdom

The number of people developing tuberculosis continues to increase despite earlier signs of stabilizing, according to a report released Dec. 2 by the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency.

Last year in the U.K. 8,655 cases of TB were reported to the Health Protection Agency. That represents an increase of 2.9 percent from 2007, when 8,411 cases were reported. The burden of this infection remains in the U.K.'s major urban areas, with London reporting 39 percent of cases.

The number of patients completing treatment has improved for the first time in recent years according to the agency's report, with 81 percent of patients now completing their TB treatment, a 2 percent increase from the previous year.

"Cases of TB remain at their highest since the late 1980s, and efforts to control and accelerate the downward trend must be kept up,” said Dr. Ibrahim Abubakar, head of tuberculosis at the agency's Centre for Infections. We must remain vigilant and keep TB high on the agenda.

"The increase in TB cases this year means we cannot be confident that rates are stabilizing. In particular, we have observed a 4 percent increase in the rate of TB among U.K. born individuals with numbers rising from 1,843 in 2007 to 1,926 in 2008.

"The improvement in treatment completion is promising and will have an impact on onward transmission of the infection in the future. However, we want to see further improvements in the total number of patients completing treatment to bring it up to at least 85 percent.”

TB is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs. It is spread from person to person when one who has TB of the lungs coughs or sneezes. TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body. Only some people with TB in the lungs are infectious to other people and even then, you need close and prolonged contact with them to be at risk of being infected.