Press release

TB rates in England continue to decline

A total of 6,520 cases of TB were notified in England in 2014, a decrease on the 7,257 cases reported in 2013.

The figures are published today (1 October, 2015) in the Public Health England (PHE) annual TB in England report.

Latest figures give an incidence of 12.0 cases per every 100,000 people in England, down from the peak of 15.6 per 100,000 in 2011.

As in previous years, London accounted for the highest proportion of cases in England, with 2,572 cases of TB in 2014, down from 2,965 cases in 2013.

These are very welcome reductions in TB cases and continue the downward trend of the last 2 years. The reductions are mainly due to a reduction in cases in the non-UK born population, which make up nearly three-quarters of all TB cases in England. Whilst there has not yet been a similar reduction in the rate of TB in those born in the UK, in January 2015 PHE and NHS England committed to implement a collaborative TB strategy, which includes the key actions required to achieve a year on year reduction in all aspects of TB in England and a reduction in the inequalities associated with the disease.

Professor Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director for PHE said:

This is the third year in a row that we have seen a reduction in the number of TB cases in England, which is excellent news. This decrease is likely due to a number of factors, including changes in migration patterns, and the impact of pre-entry screening, in addition to interventions to improve the control of TB, both in England and abroad.

TB remains one of the key priorities for PHE, and we are working with key partners to oversee the development of a stronger national approach to TB control.

In January we launched a comprehensive collaborative TB strategy focused on supporting and strengthening local services, especially in areas of high incidence, and the implementation of systematic testing and treatment of individuals who may have latent TB.

Migrants on visas with a duration of 6 months or longer who are from countries with high rates of TB continue to be screened for active TB before they enter the UK.

Dr Lucy Thomas, Head of TB Surveillance for PHE, said:

The recent decrease in TB cases is very welcome, although TB rates in England still remain among the highest in Western Europe. To achieve further reductions in TB in England we will build upon existing achievements through the sustained and co-ordinated action of all key stakeholders, as set out in the collaborative TB strategy.

Background information

  1. Read the PHE Tuberculosis in England report (2015).
  2. TB is a disease caused by a bacterium (bug). When someone with active lung TB coughs, sneezes or spits, TB germs may be propelled into the air. TB is not very easy to catch – usually you need close and prolonged contact to a person with active TB in the lungs.
  3. In England, most TB cases occur amongst specific risk groups, such as people with close links to countries with a high TB burden (often settled migrants from such countries, who experience reactivation of latent TB infection acquired many years previously), people with social risk factors such as homelessness, a history of imprisonment or problem drug or alcohol use, and older people.
  4. While the majority of TB cases are due to reactivation of infection, recent transmission still occurs in England.
  5. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Website: www.gov.uk/phe. Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland.

Public Health England press office