To estimate the incidence of active tuberculosis (TB) and study the use of chemoprophylaxis for latent TB in children in Wales, and to identify potential areas for improving prevention and management.
Active surveillance for TB in children aged 0–15 years from July 1996 to December 2003, using the Welsh Paediatric Surveillance Scheme.
A total of 232 children, 102 with active TB (2.3 per 100 000) and 130 with latent TB (2.9 per 100 000), were identified. Nearly half (45%) belonged to ethnic minorities (19% were of black African origin), a much higher proportion than the base population. Pulmonary disease was the most common presentation (47%), including six (9%) children who were sputum smear positive. There were 10 cases of disseminated TB, nearly all in white children under 10 years of age. Less than two thirds of eligible children (27/46, 59%) were known to have received BCG immunisation. The source of infection was an adult household contact in most cases, but was not known in 44 cases, particularly among teenagers. Four community outbreaks occurred during the surveillance period, including three in high schools.
TB incidence in children in Wales remains low, but the epidemiology is changing with an increasing proportion of cases in black African children. The high proportion of patients with disseminated TB is of particular concern. TB in teenagers was often associated with school outbreaks. Many eligible children do not receive BCG immunisation, indicating further scope for prevention.