Background: A change has recently been noted in the epidemiology of tuberculosis in the United States. Multiple factors, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, increases in the homeless population, and immigration, are cited as causes for an increased prevalence. The population of pregnant women in New Orleans exhibits several of these risk factors and may be compared with a previous description of this group reported in 1983.
Methods: All patients requesting obstetric care at the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans from January 1994 to April 1995, were offered tuberculosis skin testing during their initial outpatient clinic visit. A skin test was considered positive if there was 10 mm of induration (5 mm in HIV-positive patients) at 48 hours. Other information collected included HIV status and ethnic group. This group was compared with a group of patients tested in 1981 and 1982.
Results: The study included 1621 patients, who underwent testing and had available results. The only significant risk factor for a positive skin test in 1994 was Hispanic ethnicity. Hispanics are the most recent immigrants to the New Orleans area. In 1983 Asians were at highest risk and were the newest immigrants to the city. HIV status was insignificant as a predictor of skin test conversion.
Conclusions: Pregnant women at highest risk for tuberculosis in this urban center are recent immigrants to the United States. This is consistent with data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from other locales. Efforts should be made to ensure that recently immigrated pregnant women receive skin testing as part of their obstetric care.