TB numbers down, but we can’t become complacent


Ahead of World TB Day [24 March], new figures from the Public Health Agency (PHA) have revealed that the number of reported cases of Tuberculosis (TB) has dropped in Northern Ireland.

There were 57 cases reported in 2018, down from 71 in 2017 and 85 in 2016.

Dr Michael Devine, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “TB is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs, but can impact on other parts of the body. It is spread from person to person when someone who has TB of the lungs coughs or sneezes.

“Despite the fall in cases over the past three years, TB remains an important global and local public health issue. Over one million people die of the illness across the world each year, and there are more than 10 million new cases, so the PHA is reminding everyone of the importance of preventing transmission of tuberculosis and how to recognise its symptoms early.”

Any of the following symptoms may suggest TB:

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Persistent cough
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your sputum (phlegm or spit) at any time.
  • A lack of appetite
  • Fatigue and a general sense of feeling unwell 

If anyone is concerned about their symptoms they should contact their GP. Greater awareness can mean the condition is diagnosed and treated much earlier.

Dr Devine continued: “With effective treatment, TB can be a curable condition and World TB Day is an opportunity to raise awareness to reduce transmission of TB by encouraging early diagnosis and treatment.

“People may think of TB as a disease of the past but we must not become complacent – with new drug-resistant types of TB evolving it is essential that we maintain vigilance and know what to look out for.”

Both health professionals and the general public should be aware of the following key facts about TB:

  • TB can be fatal if not treated
  • TB is usually curable with a six-month course of antibiotics which must be completed
  • Not completing the full course can encourage drug resistance
  • TB disease develops slowly in the body over a period of several months
  • The infection usually requires prolonged and close contact in order to spread from person to person
  • Under half of cases in the UK have the infectious form of the disease 
  • Most cases present little or no risk to others
  • It is very uncommon to catch TB from a child with the disease
  • TB treatment is free for the patient in Northern Ireland.


For further information see www.pha.site/TB