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TB cases on the rise but levels are at half the national average
THE once feared disease of tuberculosis is on the increase in the North-East, according to public health experts.
A total of 166 cases were diagnosed in 2012 compared to 131 in 2011 following a steady decline over the previous four years - but the rate is still less than half the national average.
Officials from Public Health England stressed that the North-East still has one of the lowest rates for TB in the country.
Rates of TB have stabilised nationally at about 14 cases per 100,000 since the mid-2000s. The rate in the North-East is 6.4 per 100,000.
Nationally, almost three quarters of cases were in people born in countries where TB is more common. Of those born abroad, the majority of cases were from South Asia (60 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (22 per cent).
In the UK-born population, those most at risk are people from ethnic minority groups, those with social risk factors such as a history of homelessness, imprisonment or problem use of drugs or alcohol and the elderly.
Paul Davison, director of health protection at the North-East PHE Centre, said: "TB is a preventable and treatable condition, but, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.
'Although we have seen an increase in the number of cases diagnosed in the North-East, we think that a proportion of this may be due to improved reporting systems."
He said early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is the key to combating TB.
Dr Paul Cosford, medical director at PHE, said: "TB remains an important public health problem, particularly in London and among people from vulnerable communities. We have therefore made TB one of the key priorities."
In Yorkshire and the Humber the number of new cases of TB diagnosed fell from 661 in 2011 to 605 last year.
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