TB infections on rise in Suffolk

SUFFOLK: Cases of tuberculosis have nearly trebled in Suffolk over a two-year period, latest statistics reveal today.A new report released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that the number of people developing the infection in the East of England has risen consistently since 2004 despite earlier signs of stabilising.

SUFFOLK: Cases of tuberculosis have nearly trebled in Suffolk over a two-year period, latest statistics reveal today.

A new report released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that the number of people developing the infection in the East of England has risen consistently since 2004 despite earlier signs of stabilising.

In 2006 there were 14 reported cases of TB in Suffolk, but this increased to 38 reported cases in 2008.

TB is a bacterial infection which usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body. It caused widespread public concern in the 19th and early 20th century as an endemic disease of the urban poor and there was also an outbreak in the post-war era. It is spread by human contact when the person infected coughs or sneezes.

HPA claims the main reasons for the rise is a lack of early diagnosis and those with the infection failing to finish their course of antibiotics.

Dr Mike Lilley, TB lead for the HPA in the East of England, said: “Last year we saw a small decrease which suggested a possible stabilisation of the infection but the figures we have seen this year shows we cannot be confident this is the case.

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“Cases of TB remain at their highest level since the late 1980s, and efforts to control and accelerate the downward trend must be maintained. The key to reducing levels of TB is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment - it's a curable condition but if left untreated it can be life threatening.”

Among the symptoms for TB are fever and night sweats, persistent coughs, and weight loss.

Last year in the region 470 cases of TB were reported to the HPA, which is an increase of 24 per cent from 2007. Cases in the East of England made up 5.5 per cent of all cases in the UK last year.

Dr Brian Keeble, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Suffolk, said: “Figures for TB tend to go up and down each year; in 2006, for example, they were significantly lower, and then increased the year after. Whenever a case is detected the individual is treated at our local hospitals and close contacts of the case are investigated and followed up to ensure that they do not develop TB.”