Victorian disease TB cases explode to nearly 1,000 in UK – urgent symptoms to know

By Staff 5 Min Read

Latest figures reported to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has shown a huge number of cases of tuberculosis in England and Wales so far in 2024

Almost 1,000 cases of a Victoria superbug have been diagnosed in England and Wales so far this year.

Tuberculosis or TB caused the deaths of around four million people between 1851 and 1910 in England and Wales before the invention of antibiotics. Worldwide, it is still the second-leading infectious killer behind Covid and caused the death of 1.3 million people in 2022, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In England and Wales, there were 182 deaths in 2022, up from 168 in 2021, but below pre-pandemic figures.

Latest figures show in the first 10 weeks of this year, the UKHSA has received notifications of 919 suspected cases of TB in England, up from 878 during the same period of 2023. Another 14 suspected cases have been seen this year in Wales – up from 12 in the first 10 weeks of last year.

GPs send notifications to the UKHSA when they diagnose an infection they believe to be TB which are then used to prompt local investigations. So far this year the highest number of cases have been reported in Birmingham (38), followed by Brent (25), Bradford (24) and Manchester (24).

Dr Esther Robinson, Head of the TB Unit at UKHSA, 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. Not every persistent cough, along with a fever, is caused by flu or COVID-19.

“A cough which 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.”

Around the world, 7.5million people were diagnosed with TB in 2022, which health experts say is the highest number ever recorded. Multidrug-resistant TB – when the bacteria doesn’t respond to two of the four main antibiotics used to treat it – is also a growing concern, although the number of people with this form of TB has remained stable in recent years in England and Wales. TB is a serious long-term condition, but it is now curable.

It usually affects the lungs but can spread to other parts of the body such as your glands, bones, and brain. Symptoms include a chronic cough, fever, chills, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and coughing up blood.

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