Routine tuberculin screening of children during hospitalization

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Harris County, TX, which includes Houston, has one of the highest childhood tuberculosis case rates in the United States. For an 11-week period in the spring of 1988 all children admitted to the medical service of the Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston, TX, received a Man-toux skin test consisting of tuberculin purified protein derivative. The purpose was to assess the impact of routine tuberculin screening during hospitalizaton for acute medical care and to determine whether tuberculin screening in this setting is an effective means of identifying children with asymptomatic tuberculous infection. Of the 432 patients skin tested, 50% were younger than 1 year of age and only 304 were evaluable at 48 hours. Two new positive skin tests were discovered for a positive tuberculin rate of 0.66%. We conclude that even in a high risk region, routine tuberculin screening of all children admitted to the hospital may not be effective.

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