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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 12:30 GMT
Tuberculosis cases 'are rising'
Early diagnosis is key to treating TB
Cases of tuberculosis are increasing, official figures show.

Provisional data from the Health Protection Agency show a rise of 2% from 2005 to 2006 to 8,171 cases across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

London continues to account for the highest proportion of cases - 42% - but there has been a slight decrease in the actual number of cases there.

The figures are released to mark World TB Day on Saturday, which aims to raise awareness of the condition.

Dr John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: "Since the late 1980s the number of people diagnosed with TB has risen every year and, in line with this trend, 2006 shows a slight increase.

'Serious comeback'

"During 2005 we saw a large rise in the number of cases reported.

This Victorian disease is on the march
Professor John Macfarlane, British Thoracic Society

"We therefore need to be cautious about predicting future trends based on 2006 figures alone.

"At this stage, it is too early to tell whether these provisional results for 2006 signify a slowing in the overall trend of increase in the number of cases."

Professor Peter Borriello, Director of Centre for Infections, said: "The fact that we are still seeing more new cases diagnosed each year means we need to continue heightened efforts with those most affected by TB."

And a British Thoracic Society survey of UK TB consultants found nine out of 10 thought cases would increase over the next decade.

Professor John Macfarlane, BTS chairman said: "This Victorian disease is on the march.

"Doctors up and down the country are warning us TB is in danger of staging a serious comeback."

Health minister Caroline Flint said: "We are not complacent about this, but we know there are no short-term solutions to tackling TB, and long-term concerted action will take time to take effect.

"Our TB Action Plan sets out our strategy in England. We believe that the best way to ensure a good TB service is through local commissioning, and together with the HPA we will be providing the NHS with a comprehensive set of resources to help them commission services, which meet their local circumstances."

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