Childhood tuberculosis is perceived by many as a disease of the past. Experience in a children's hospital serving a deprived population suggested that tuberculosis and other mycobacterial infections were not declining in clinical practice. Fifty three tuberculous and 11 atypical mycobacterial infections were identified between 1978 and 1992. There was no decline in tuberculosis and nine of the 11 atypical infections occurred in the last five years. Altogether 40% of cases of tuberculosis were in non-Asian children; 32% had arrived in the UK or visited family overseas in the previous year; and 38% had a history of tuberculosis contact, usually a close adult relative. Nationally, the previous decline in tuberculosis in all ages has reversed. In the local health districts in London's east end, childhood tuberculosis has also stopped declining and seems to be increasing. It is regrettable that BCG vaccination has been abolished by some districts in the UK, against current recommendations. Childhood tuberculosis is still common in the practice described here, including among children who do not fall into conventionally recognised high risk groups. Inner city dwellers and junior doctors are both highly mobile populations, adding to the risk that paediatricians, particularly those in training, may encounter tuberculosis with little or no previous experience of the condition.
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