Cases of tuberculosis in the UK have levelled out for the first time in 20 years, according to new figures.
The Health Protection Agency said infections in 2006 were identical to those seen during 2005, with 8,113 cases of the lung disease reported in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in both years.
The report also includes data for Scotland for the first time, and reveals there were 286 cases in 2006.
British Lung Foundation chairman Dr Keith Prowse said: "I would like to hope that the fact that the figures are smaller is due to progress and not to chance.
"But I don't think you can read anything into one year's results. We would need to see a stabilising figure over several years before we could form any real judgement."
The government has attempted to curb the spread of TB by vaccinating new-born babies at risk of the illness, simplifying the treatment process, and targeting high-risk communities.
But Tina Harrison, awareness officer for the charity TB Alert, said there is still a lack of awareness surrounding the disease.
She said: "It really should have a better profile than it does in the medical profession.
"It is a difficult disease to diagnose.
"The best thing we can to is ensure medical professionals and the public are more aware."
British Lung Foundation
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