Amid a Sizeable Surge in cases of Victorian Disease, People Encouraged to Consult GP


Health authorities have initiated an inquiry to understand the factors behind the recent surge in tuberculosis cases, particularly in the north west region.

Health officials are investigating the rise in tuberculosis cases in England, a disease historically associated with the Victorian era. Provisional data shows an 11% increase in TB cases in England in 2023 compared to 2022. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported 4,850 cases last year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Significant increases have been observed in urban areas such as London, the north west, and the west midlands.

However, there have also been rises in regions like the south west and north east, where tuberculosis (TB) incidence is typically low. TB primarily affects the lungs and can be treated with antibiotics, but it can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

The BCG vaccine provides protection against TB but is typically administered to individuals at higher risk of infection. Officials noted that TB cases remained “broadly stable” in 2021 and 2022, with 4,380 cases reported in 2022. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) stated that an investigation has been launched to determine the factors contributing to the increase.

Dr. Esther Robinson, head of the TB unit at UKHSA, emphasized the importance of collective action to address TB. She highlighted the need to collaborate with partners across the health system to identify effective strategies to eliminate this preventable and treatable infection. Dr. Robinson also advised that persistent coughs lasting over three weeks, accompanied by fever and mucus, should not be dismissed as flu or COVID-19, as they could indicate TB or other underlying health issues.

Dr. Robinson recommended that individuals consult their GP if they believe they are at risk.

Formerly referred to as ‘consumption’ or ‘white death’, tuberculosis was rampant in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, exhibiting a seasonal trend. The disease sparked widespread alarm in the 19th and early 20th centuries as it proliferated among the urban underprivileged. By 1815, one out of every four deaths in England was attributed to ‘consumption’.

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