Childhood tuberculosis (TB) cases indicate recent community transmission and thus reflect the effectiveness of TB control efforts, particularly the contact investigation.
Objective. To evaluate all preventable childhood TB cases and implications in the context of TB morbidity trends.
Design. Statewide morbidity trends are presented from 1983 to 1997. Since 1992, each child TB case is classified as either preventable or not preventable, based on a standard definition.
Main Outcome Measures. Case characteristics (preventable and not preventable), TB disease rates over time, and reasons for preventable case classification.
Setting. Alabama TB control program, from January 1, 1983 through December 31, 1997.
Results. For the period 1983–1997, nonwhite children had a higher disease rate (rate ratio: 5.7; 95% confidence interval: 4.3,7.6) than white children. Since 1990, the overall child rate has increased significantly despite a decline in the adult rate. Among 120 child cases diagnosed from 1992 to 1997, 25 (21%) were classified as preventable. The causes were contact investigation interview failure (12/25 = 48%), delay to evaluation (16%), source case noncompliance with previously prescribed preventive therapy (16%), and source case diagnosed out of state (16%) with no initial investigation performed in Alabama. All preventable cases identified were black children; the proportion of preventable cases did not vary by age group or sex. During 1996, the case rate for nonwhite children exceeded that of adult whites.
Conclusions. Childhood TB in Alabama for nonwhites is rising despite a national downward trend. TB is clearly a disproportionate disease burden for the state's African American population, and the median case age is falling. Additional research and improved training in contact investigation are required to assess this situation and effectively intervene.
- Received September 28, 1999.
- Accepted November 29, 1999.
- Copyright © 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics