‘Dickensian’ disease that killed 4million Brits makes comeback – check rates in your area

Tuberculosis or TB, which also afflicted Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, it is thought, was heavily featured in 18th and 19th century literature

CDC explains how tuberculosis can be transmitted

A Dickensian disease responsible for killing millions in Victorian Britain is making a post-pandemic comeback, it is feared.

Tuberculosis or TB – also known as “consumption” – caused the deaths of an estimated four million people between 1851 and 1910. It was the scourge of the 18th and 19th centuries and featured heavily in the literature of the time, with Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Samuel Richardson among the authors writing about the disease.

TB is thought to be one of the illnesses afflicting Tiny Tim in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Although it is now curable, TB is still the second leading infectious killer globally, behind Covid-19. In the UK cases and infection rates had been falling since 2011, as the health authorities work toward the elimination of the disease.

However, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says that progress has now stalled. Cases went up during the pandemic in 2021 and then remained stable last year. So far this year the UKHSA has received notifications of 4,813 cases of TB in England and Wales – a 7% increase on the 4,480 cases over the same period during the previous year. It is also higher than in 2021 (4,557).

TB is linked to areas with high levels of deprivation. Of the local authority areas in England and Wales, Birmingham has had the most cases of TB this year, with 206. Birmingham has the fifth highest proportion of neighbourhoods ranked among the 10% most deprived in England.

It is followed by Manchester (150) which has the sixth highest proportion of the most deprived neighbourhoods, then Leicester (149) and Newham in east London (141).

You can see the cases where you live using our interactive map below

When compared to the population, Leicester has had the highest rate of infections with 40.7 per 100,000 people. That is followed by Newham (40.2), Brent (38.4), and Harrow (36.4), all in Greater London. Greater London is the region most blighted by TB. A third of all cases identified this year were diagnosed in Greater London.


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