TB cases on the increase - doctors’ warning

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PUBLIC health specialists have recorded the highest incidence of TB since bringing in surveillance to track the development of the disease 11 years ago.

It has led them to predict that the figure will rise significantly by 2019 in Lancashire by as much as a third.

In Burnley, 12 cases have been reported this year. The figure is down on 2009, when there were 16 cases.

The North West Regional TB Group’s annual report for 2010 shows there were 828 cases of tuberculosis across the region.

Most were reported in areas of deprivation, and most had family associations with countries where levels of TB are high.

In terms of absolute numbers, the majority of cases are from Pakistani and white ethnic groups.

Compared to other ethnicities, young Asian and black-African men, aged between 15 and 34, had the highest proportion of cases.

The report says that the pattern suggests recent transmissions, and an on-going public health problem.

Analysis confirmed that 63% of patients were born outside the UK, and, of those, 96% were not diagnosed until they had been in the country for more than a year.

White patients tended to be over the age of 55, and have other pulmonary conditions.

The report says that there is a clear relationship between TB and deprivation, with significantly higher number and incident rates in more deprived areas.

Patients with other risk factors that affect immunity, such as alcohol or drug misuse, were also found to be vulnerable.

Dr Marko Petrovic, the HPA’s TB lead for the North-West, said: “We are working hard with the NHS, the charity TB Alert and others to increase awareness of TB infection and its symptoms.

“Anyone who thinks they may have symptoms of TB should seek medical advice as soon as possible.”

TB is treatable with a six-month course of antibiotics. Patients who do not complete the treatment in its entirety risk developing a drug-resistant form of the infection, which greatly increases the risk to themselves and others.

TB is an infection caused by bacteria, and usually affects the lungs.

It is spread from person-to-person through coughs and sneezes.

Any of the following symptoms may suggest TB – fever and night sweats, a persistent cough, losing weight and blood in the sputum.