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New TB cases "at 30-year high"

Another 9,049 new cases of tuberculosis have helped figures for the disease hit a worrying 30-year high - meaning prolonged treatment and care for some sufferers.

The 2009 figures were the highest since 1979, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed, when there were 9,266 cases in England and Wales alone.

Even more worryingly, the number of TB cases that have resisted firstline treatment has almost doubled in the past decade, from 206 in 2000 to 389 last year.

There are still low levels of people - just over 1% - with resistance to multi-antibiotic treatments, but the figures for that are still on the rise.

Those with the more resistant strain can face up to 18 months of treatment. Dr Paul Cosford, of the Health Protection Agency, said: "Although drug resistant and multi-drug resistant cases of infection represent only a small proportion of TB cases overall, each resistant case requires careful and often prolonged treatment and care. Drug resistance is increasingly an issue in a wide range of infections.

"Patients must ensure they take their full prescription as instructed and, most importantly, they must finish any course of treatment that has been prescribed."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Health Protection Agency

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I am totally appalled that the government stopped the BCG immunisation programme citing cost-effectiveness when clearly there is an increase in the number of cases of TB from immigrant families who attend schools of children who haven't been immunised. Surely this must put non-immunised
children AT RISK? This illness had almost been eradicated with the immunisation programme now it's prevalent again what is the government thinking? And when will this be included in the immunisation programme again and where's the cost effectiveness of that? where can parents get their children immunised if that's what they want to do?" - Name and address supplied

"I remember nursing children with TB in the early 80s and it wasn't pleasant for child or family. Health professionals warned the government about the dangers of inadequate screening of immigrants and cessation of routine vaccination programme. It seems our worst fears are coming to light much sooner than the government bargained for. Cuts in health provision sooner or later lead to more expensive treatment and prevention
services will the politicians never learn?" - Name and address supplied

"What on earth were the government thinking when they stopped vaccination? It HAD to be cost-related, not risk-related! In my area, we are classed as low risk so my teenage children were not vaccinated at school, but when I started my new practice nurse job, occupational health insisted I was vaccinated. I was 46 at the time, and only after the event did I read that the vaccine is far less effective in people over 35!!! Bring back universal vaccination!" - Carrie, Derbyshire

"TB is here let's face it. My worry is on the health professionals who do not seem to know how to vaccinate against this condition. I am African myself and worked widely with TB patients. I have seen a lot of people with the wrong site and no uptake of the injection. Mantoux readings did not seem correct - who is teaching these nurses? What experience have they
got?" - Name and address supplied

"I agree with Esh, Hounslow" - LD, Hampshire

"The increase of TB was inevitable when the government decided to stop the vaccination programme, maybe they will re think and re-introduce it. Obviously not as cost-effective as they thought it was going to be and very distressing for the patients and their families" - Jane Cannon, Glos

"All migrants should be tested for TB rather than just taking chest X ray as medical for migration. Many professional migrants from India have been diagnosed TB after arriving to UK" - Esh, Hounslow

"I had concerns over the the stopping of the routine vaccination programme BCG at the time for UK teenagers. Especially with the increase of the European 'open economic border' policy, that coincided. The Eastern European states already had a very high incidence of TB. Also, TB was on
the rise as an added complication in immuno-suppressed HIV positive people. An ideal situation for an old problem to raise its head again. Just as malaria, which should have been greatly reduced in Africa is at pandemic levels, due to war, and political upheaval and the pressure from the Western 'civilized' countries to ban the use of pesticides, GM crops and vaccination programmes. As usual its a case of 'we are all right Jack' we turn our backs on what is in front of our eyes. Are we such a progressive world?" - E Fry, South West