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Tuberculosis on the Rise in Britain

Posted Nov 03 2010 8:12pm

Tuberculosis is back in Britain with the number of people infected at the highest point since 1979.

The amount infected in 1979 was 9,266, but with 9,040 people infected during 2009, the figures are causing great concern to those in the medical industry.

The strain of Tuberculosis which is resistant to treatment by antibiotics is has doubled in nine years according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

According the HPA figures, 206 people were infected by the resistant strain in 2000, compared to 389 in 2009.

The cause for the dramatic increase appears to be from overseas immigrants bringing the disease with them, according to health experts, and the TB seems to be most prominent amongst immigrants from Asia and Africa.

Most cases are found to be in the London area, with the homeless and drug abusers also mainly affected.

If not caught early enough, TB can lead to fatality, and approximately 350 people die each year because of it.

One of the main reasons it spreads so quickly and so well, is that it can survive in the body for years without illness or awareness of its presence.

The bacteria damages the lungs, causing fever, coughing, loss of appetite, weight loss and tiredness.

If patients don’t complete the course of antibiotics as advised by their doctor, the disease can become resistant to drugs and even more dangerous to the public.

The HPA’s executive director of health protection services, Dr Paul Cosford, feels those affected should heed the instructions of their doctor well.

“Although drug-resistant and multi-drug resistant cases of infection represent only a small proportion of TB cases overall, each resistant case requires careful and often prolonged treatment and care,” Dr Cosford explained.

“Drug resistance is increasingly an issue in a wide range of infections.

“Patients must ensure they take their full prescription as instructed and, most importantly, they must finish any course of treatment that has been prescribed.”

Head of TB surveillance at the HPA, Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, has some worries: “We are concerned to see that cases of TB are at their highest levels since the 1970s.

“Tuberculosis is a preventable and treatable condition.

“But, if left untreated, it can be life threatening.

“The key to reducing levels of TB is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

“Efforts to improve early diagnosis and control the spread of this infection must remain a priority and be increased in areas where prevalence is high.”

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