Tuberculosis is still a public health threat

World TB Day

Ahead of World TB Day on Sunday 24 March, new figures from the Public Health Agency (PHA) have revealed a steady increase in cases of tuberculosis (TB) in Northern Ireland since 2020.

There were 77 cases of TB notified to the PHA in 2023, an increase from 68 cases reported in 2022 and 55 cases reported in both 2021 and 2020.

In 2022 and 2023 almost 23% of people diagnosed with TB had at least one social risk factor (SRF). SRFs are conditions that increase the likelihood of negative health outcomes for individuals and communities, such as low income, reduced access to education or healthcare and unemployment.

Dr Cathriona Kearns, TB Programme Manager at the PHA, said; “TB is an infection that is spread in the air by inhaling small droplets from someone with infectious TB of the lungs who coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. Although TB mainly affects the lungs, it can affect any part of the body. The good news is that TB is treatable and curable for the vast majority of people, however early detection and treatment is important to help avoid health complications and to reduce spreading the disease to others.

“While the overall rate of TB is low in Northern Ireland, we need to remain vigilant to the serious risks it can pose.”

Almost anyone can get TB but some people are more at risk than others. These include:

  • people in close contact with someone who is infected, for example, living in the same house;
  • people that have lifestyle and social risk factors, such as alcohol or drug misuse or are homeless;
  • people that have a condition that weakens their immune system such as renal conditions or diabetes, or are having treatment that weakens their immune system;
  • people who have lived or spent time in a country or area with high levels of TB.

The UK has signed up to the World Health Organization (WHO) TB elimination targets by 2035, committing to support an annual reduction in TB incidence and transmission.

To help achieve this, the PHA is working with HSC Trusts and other partner organisations to increase awareness and help improve TB diagnosis and treatment, especially for those at higher risk of getting TB. Addressing TB goes beyond healthcare and requires the consideration of the wider social determinants of health and the support services around these issues. This collective approach aims to reduce infection and help people lead healthier lives.

Everyone should be aware of the symptoms of TB, which include a prolonged cough, fever and unexplained weight loss. If anyone is concerned about their symptoms they should contact their GP. Greater awareness can mean the condition is diagnosed and treated much earlier.

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.

For further information see and 

There were:

  • 77 cases of TB notified to the PHA in 2023. This equates to a rate of 4.0/100,000 population*
  • 68 cases reported in 2022 (3.6/100,000 population**)
  • 55 cases reported in 2021 (2.9/100,000 population**)
  • 55 cases reported in 2020 (2.9/100,000 population**)
  • In both 2022 and 2023 almost 23% of people diagnosed with TB had at least one social risk factor.
  • The 2023 rate is slightly above pre-pandemic levels.

* Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) June 2022 Census denominator

** Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) mid-year Census denominator for the given year(s)

  • For information on the BCG vaccination and who is eligible visit