World TB Day to remind people that ‘We can end TB’

This Sunday 24th March is World TB Day, a celebration of the discovery 142 years ago of Dr Robert Koch’s announcement that he had identified the bacteria responsible for causing tuberculosis (TB). 

TB is an infection caused by bacteria that affects mainly the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body, including lymph nodes (glands), bones and the brain causing meningitis, and is spread when a person with TB in their lungs or throat coughs or sneezes.

The aim of World TB Day is to increase awareness of the potentially very serious impact TB can have and this year its theme is ‘Yes!  We can end TB.’

UKHSA published data shows that TB notifications in England increased in the last three months of 2023 (compared to the same quarter in 2022) by 10.7% to 4,850, which represents a rebound to above the numbers recorded pre-Covid 19 in 2019.

“While England remains a low incidence country for TB, and the proportion of TB notifications accounted for by people born outside of the UK has been rising steadily for a number of years, last year’s increase has now been seen in both UK born and non-UK born populations in England,” comments Jennie Clements, Lead Nurse Health Protection, NHS Lincolnshire ICB.

Symptoms of TB include a cough lasting more than three weeks – you may cough up mucus (phlegm) or mucus with blood in it, a high temperature or drenching night sweats, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, and feeling tired or exhausted.

“Fortunately TB is curable if diagnosed early and treated quickly with the right combination of specific antibiotics,” adds Jennie.  “However, it is vital if you are treated for TB that you complete the whole course of antibiotics – which for non-drug resistant TB will be for a minimum of six months – since it can be very serious and even fatal if not treated.”

It is also worth noting that you can have TB and have symptoms, which is known as active TB, but you can also have TB in your body and have no symptoms, which is known as latent TB.

“You should see your GP if you experience any of the symptoms (listed above), as well as if you often do not feel hungry, you keep losing weight without changing your diet or exercise regime, or you have spent a lot of time with someone who has TB and has symptoms.  If you are coughing up blood or mucus with blood in it, you should ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111,” explains Jennie.

“If you are unfortunate enough to have a stiff neck and a severe headache, it’s painful to look at bright lights, you’ve had a seizure or fit, you’ve had a change in behaviour such as sudden confusion, or you have weakness or loss of movement in part of your body, these could be signs that TB has spread to your brain (meningitis) and you should call 999 or go to A&E immediately.”

In addition to the use of specific antibiotics to treat TB, there is also a TB vaccination called the BCG vaccine, which is recommended for some people who are at higher risk of catching TB or getting seriously ill from it.  The BCG vaccine is mainly given to babies and young children who are at higher risk of getting TB – more information can be found on the NHS website BCG vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) – NHS ( – and is very effective at protecting them.