Tuberculosis in a correctional facility

Arch Intern Med. 1993 Dec 13;153(23):2692-5.


Background: After the identification of five suspected cases of tuberculosis (TB) in a Nassau County (New York) jail during a 3-week period, an epidemiologic investigation was begun to document the number of cases of TB infection and disease associated with the jail, the characteristics of current or former inmates with TB disease, and the factors contributing to TB transmission in the jail.

Methods: The county TB register was matched against the inmate files of the jail. Medical records from hospitals, the health department, and the jail were then reviewed. All inmates in the jail were skin tested during a mass screening.

Results: From January 1, 1988, through March 16, 1990, of 205 TB cases in the county, 49 (24%) were associated with the jail. Forty of the cases occurred among current or former inmates, one in a corrections officer, and eight among community contacts of inmates. The 40 inmates with TB were predominantly nonwhite (75%), unmarried (80%) men (90%), with a median age of 32 years. Twenty-three (58%) had a history of injecting drug use, and 14 (35%) were known to be seropositive for the human immunodeficiency virus. Thirty (75%) of the inmates had culture-confirmed pulmonary TB. Five (29%) of 17 Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates had the same phage type and DNA fingerprint, which was consistent with transmission of infection within the jail. The mass screening revealed that 374 (20%) of 1855 inmates were tuberculin positive.

Conclusions: Without an effective program of TB control, jails can act as reservoirs of disease for inmates and staff, and for the community into which the inmates are released.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Prisons*
  • Tuberculin Test
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*