There has been a small decrease in the number of tuberculosis cases reported in the UK, according to a report from Public Health England.
A total of 7,892 cases of TB were notified in the UK in 2013, a decrease on the 8,729 cases reported in 2012.
The figures were published last week in the Public Health England’s annual TB in the UK report.
Latest figures give an incidence of 12.3 cases per every 100,000 people in the UK, one of the highest rates of TB in Western Europe.
“This small decrease can’t be seen as cause for celebration”
As in previous years, London accounted for the highest proportion of cases in the UK, with 2,985 cases of TB, or 37.8% of UK cases.
The rate of TB among the non-UK born population (70 per 100,000) remains considerably higher than the rate in the UK born (4 per 100,000).
The majority of such cases occurred amongst settled migrants rather than new arrivals to the UK, with 85% of cases diagnosed more than two years after entry to the UK.
The overall TB rate in the UK-born population has not declined in the past decade. However, the rate in UK-born children has decreased in the past five years, suggesting some reduction in recent transmission of TB in the UK.
As in previous years, TB was concentrated among the most deprived populations, with more than two thirds (70%) of cases resident in the 40% most deprived areas. One in 10 cases having a social risk factor for TB, such as a history of homelessness, imprisonment or alcohol or drug misuse).
According to Public Health England, the small drop in TB numbers and rates in the past two years is likely to be influenced by a number of factors, including changes in migration patterns, and the impact of interventions to improve the control of TB, both in the UK and abroad.
Dr Lucy Thomas, head of TB Surveillance for Public Health England, said: “While welcome, this small decrease can’t be seen as cause for celebration when TB rates in England remain among the highest in Western Europe.
“Sustained reductions in TB, particularly amongst the most vulnerable groups, will require the social and economic determinants of the disease to be addressed, in addition to the provision of strong and effective public health and clinical services,” she said.
Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director for Public Health England, said a forthcoming Collaborative TB Strategy for England would aim to “significantly reduce the suffering and harm caused by this illness”.