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Keywords:

  • tuberculosis;
  • tuberculin reaction;
  • old age home

OBJECTIVES: To assess the prevalence of tuberculous infection and active tuberculosis (TB) in old age homes in Hong Kong and to determine whether there is institutional transmission in these homes.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SETTING: Old age homes.

PARTICIPANTS: Total of 2,243 residents, representing 84.6% of all residents in 15 old age homes; 1,698 were women, and 545 were men, with an average age of 82.

MEASUREMENTS: All residents had a questionnaire-based interview, medical record review, two-stage tuberculin testing using two units purified protein derivative-RT23, and a chest x-ray. Those with radiological abnormalities had sputum examined for acid-fast bacilli.

RESULTS: The estimated prevalence rate of active TB in this population was 669 per 100,000, significantly higher in men than in women (1,101 per 100,000 vs 530 per 100,000). The proportion with positive tuberculin reactivity (≥10 mm induration) after two-stage testing was 68.6%, significantly higher in men than in women. There was no evidence of active transmission of disease in these old age homes, with restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis performed on five cases of active pulmonary TB in the home with the highest rate of TB showing unique RFLP patterns.

CONCLUSION: The rate of active TB and TB infection in old age homes in Hong Kong is still high. Because treatment for latent TB carries a high risk for liver dysfunction in this population, clinicians and other healthcare workers need a high index of suspicion and to diagnose and treat this disease as early as possible to prevent transmission.