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Addressing the phenomenal rise of tuberculosis in the UK

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It is estimated that any one time, up to a third of the world's population is infected with tuberculosis (TB).1 In 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people developed TB, with 1.3 million people dying from the disease.1 The disease is more common in regions of the world where poverty, malnutrition, HIV and a lack of social and health infrastructures are present. TB is a curable and preventable disease, yet no country in the world has eradicated it and it remains a major global health problem.

This article gives a brief description of TB epidemiology in the UK and pathogenesis, transmission and treatment. The article focuses on the different forms of TB, highlighting high-risk groups, and how nurses can enhance their public health role in accessing TB updates, instigating prompt referral, and investigations, particularly for pulmonary TB.

TB epidemiology in the UK

In 2012, 8,751 TB cases were reported in the UK, an incidence of 13.9 per 100,000 population. Although the TB rates in the UK are considered low, and have stabilised following the increase in incidence from 1990 to 2005,2 the rates remain high compared with other western European countries.3

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