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Communicable diseases in the United Kingdom (UK) - Statistics & Facts

Communicable diseases, also called infectious diseases, are illnesses which are spread from person to person either directly or indirectly. Usually these diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses. Diseases such as measles or mumps can spread by coughing, sneezing or touching infected surfaces. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and hepatitis are transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood or semen.

The most effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases is through immunization. Vaccines work by introducing a small amount of the disease to the body so that the immune system can ‘learn’ how to fight and protect against the subsequent illness. In the UK, vaccination has meant that diseases such as smallpox and polio, which used to kill millions of people, have been eradicated from the country. However, the rise of vaccine hesitancy recently has threatened to allow the spread of diseases which can easily be vaccinated against. A survey in the UK found that 89 percent of the British public believed that vaccines were important for children to have.

In 2021, 90 percent of children in the UK had been vaccinated against measles. For the so-called ‘herd immunity’ to be effective at least 95 percent of children need to be vaccinated. In the UK, England was the country with the lowest level of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunization, with fewer than 87 percent of children receiving the two doses of the vaccine by their fifth birthday. The NHS warns that these diseases spread very quickly when less than 90 percent of the population is vaccinated. In 2020, there were 79 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales, this low number was likely suppressed and aided by lockdown and social distancing restrictions brought in that year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority of STIs, on the other hand, do not currently have a vaccination to protect against. The only three STIs which currently have a vaccination are the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. In 2020, there were approximately 2.8 thousand new cases of HIV in the UK, although the number has been generally decreasing since 2006. On the other hand, more common STIs such as herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia had been increasing in recent years but fell dramatically in the pandemic-affected year of 2020. In total there were approximately 318 thousand new cases of STIs diagnosed in England in 2020.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 34 most important statistics relating to "Communicable diseases in the UK".

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