40% rise in cases of TB reported
Published 20/03/2013 | 14:26
Cases of tuberculosis have jumped by 40% in Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency has revealed.
The latest figures show 87 people were diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening disease last year - an increase on the 62 reported cases during the previous 12 months.
A further 12 people have developed a drug resistant strain of TB since 2004.
"Although people may think of TB as a disease of the past, the risk is that we become complacent, and with new drug-resistant types of TB evolving and increased international travel, it is essential that we maintain vigilance and know what to look out for," said Dr Michael Devine, consultant in health protection at the Public Health Agency.
TB is an infection caused by bacteria which usually affects the lungs. The symptoms include fever, night sweats, a persistent cough, losing weight and blood in phlegm or spit.
It develops slowly over a period of several months and can be spread when someone who has TB of the lungs coughs or sneezes.
The infection requires prolonged and close contact in order to spread from person to person which means the greatest risk is to people who live in the same household. TB is usually curable with a six-month course of antibiotics but can be fatal if left untreated.
Dr Michael Ledwith, from Northern Trust, said medics must be more aware of the growing problem.
"The increase in Northern Ireland's TB rates reinforces the critical need for early diagnosis and specialist treatment to control this serious disease.
"Increased awareness, particularly among groups at high risk, as well as health professionals, is central to this. It is important that everyone is aware of the symptoms."