Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Number of TB cases 'at record low'

The Health Service Executive says anyone with possible tuberculosis symptoms should contact their doctor

The number of tuberculosis cases reported last year fell to their lowest point since records began, figures have revealed.

There were 368 cases of the bacterial infection recorded in 2012 - 56 fewer than the year before.

But the Health Service Executive (HSE) warned people not to be complacent about the disease, which affects the lungs, saying anyone can get it.

Kevin Kelleher, HSE assistant national director of health protection, said it is important to be aware of the symptoms, which include fever, night sweats, coughing, weight loss and blood in the sputum.

Dr Kelleher said: "If someone has a reason to think that they might have TB, they should tell this to their doctor. Healthcare professionals should also be aware of the possibility of TB as a diagnosis when patients present with these symptoms.

"Anyone can get TB but those most at risk are people from countries with high incidence of TB, people with weakened immune systems due to disease or medication, people who have been in contact with a case of TB and those who for other reasons may be at high risk, for example, the homeless and intravenous drug users."

The figures, released by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre to mark World TB Day on Sunday, showed the number of TB cases in Ireland has gradually declined over the last two decades.

There were 420 cases in 2010, compared with 604 reports in 1992. The decline was even more considerable since the early 1950s when 7,000 cases of TB were recorded annually. Official records monitoring TB cases in Ireland began in 1998.

Elsewhere, latest figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated there were 8.7 million new cases of TB in 2011.

While there is a cure for TB and children across the world receive a vaccine early on, it still remains one of the leading causes of death from infectious disease. The WHO reported 1.4 million TB deaths in 2011 alone.