The epidemiology of tuberculosis in the United States

Clin Chest Med. 1997 Mar;18(1):99-113. doi: 10.1016/s0272-5231(05)70359-2.


After a dramatic increase in the incidence of TB in the United States from 1985 to 1992, the epidemiology of TB changed, with both the number of cases and the incidence of TB decreasing since 1992. The decreases have been focal, however, affecting only certain geographic areas (e.g., New York, California, and New Jersey) and certain populations (e.g., 25-44 year age group and people born in the United States). The factors responsible for the decrease in those areas and populations are multiple but the most important are thought to be improvements in TB control and treatment programs in communities serving populations at greatest risk for TB. Despite the overall decline in TB cases, the numbers of foreign-born people with TB continue to increase. Factors contributing to the increase in TB among foreign-born people include the prevalence of TB in the country of origin, duration of residence in the United States after immigration, inadequate screening for or treatment of TB before entering the United States, and inadequate follow-up of those who have entered the United States with noninfectious TB (i.e., abnormal chest radiograph with negative sputum smears). Control of TB among the foreign-born population is essential if the current downward trend in reported TB cases in the United States is to be maintained. The HIV epidemic had a significant impact on the increase in TB incidence in the United States in the late 1980s but improvements in measures to control transmission of TB appear to have been effective in reversing that trend. The current national decrease trend in TB morbidity can be sustained through organized efforts by federal and private agencies and state and local health departments to ensure that all people with TB are identified and treated promptly. Such efforts must be aimed at areas and populations identified as high risk for TB, especially foreign-born people and people who are infected with HIV.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / epidemiology
  • Age Factors
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Disease Notification
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects
  • Population Surveillance
  • Racial Groups
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / prevention & control
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / transmission
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antitubercular Agents