Dozens of tuberculosis cases a year in Northamptonshire, figures reveal

The significant impact of Covid-19 on TB services saw diagnoses drop in 2020 and backlogs for tests and treatments develop

By Joanna Morris, Data Reporter
Friday, 18th March 2022, 8:15 am

Dozens of people a year contract tuberculosis in Northamptonshire, figures for recent years suggest.

People across the globe will be urged to consider the devastating impact of the potentially fatal disease on World TB Day 2022, taking place on March 24.

Incidences of tuberculosis in England rose for the first time in eight years in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic brought disruption to TB-related care and support.

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An average of 48 people a year were diagnosed with the disease in Northamptonshire between 2018 and 2020.

The significant impact of Covid-19 on TB services saw diagnoses drop in 2020 and backlogs for tests and treatments develop, prompting the Government to launch its TB Action Plan for England.

Data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities for NHS Northamptonshire CCG shows that an average of 48 people a year were diagnosed with the disease between 2018 and 2020.

That was seven in every 100,000 people – lower than the eight in 100,000 across England.

Tuberculosis disease, which can be fatal if not treated properly, is infectious and can affect any part of the body, but is most likely to affect the lungs.

World TB Day, a World Health Organization initiative, will promote awareness of the life-threatening disease and its health, social and economic consequences.

It is spread through inhaling droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infectious person and symptoms can include persistent coughs, high temperatures, fatigue and swelling to the neck.

Dr Esther Robinson, head of the TB Unit at the UK Health Security Agency, urged anyone with symptoms to speak to their GP and encouraged the vaccination of children in high-risk groups.

She added: "Earlier detection and treatment of TB increases likelihood of recovery and reduces chances of onward spread of disease."

TB can almost always be cured, with sufferers usually given antibiotics for around six months to combat the disease.

In 2019, eight in every 100,000 people in England had the disease, the highest proportion since 2011.

That rate fell to seven in 100,000 in 2020, with the drop attributed to the pandemic's impact on health services.

Separate NHS England figures show roughly 16,000 referrals for TB-related support and care were made across England in 2021.

The Government's 2021 to 2026 action plan aims to bring about a year-on-year reduction in TB cases and associated health inequalities, with the aim of eradicating the disease in England by 2035.

TB diagnoses and outcomes for those affected will be monitored, contact tracing optimised, testing increased and training improved for health care staff.

The plan aims to strengthen prevention, detection and treatment among high risk groups including asylum seekers and the homeless.

Emma Rubach, head of health advice at Asthma and Lung UK, said the pandemic's impact meant many were waiting "in limbo" for answers as tests were put on hold or delayed.

She said: "We recognise that the NHS is working around the clock to address the backlog in care so that people are accessing care at the point of need.

"It’s really important that anyone experiencing potential symptoms of TB book an immediate appointment with their GP."