The epidemiology of tuberculosis in children in Australia, 2003–2012

Stephen S Teo, Ee Laine Tay, Paul Douglas, Vicki L Krause and Stephen M Graham
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (11): 440. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00717


Objective: To describe the burden of and trends in paediatric tuberculosis (TB) in Australia between 2003 and 2012.

Design: A retrospective analysis of TB data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) on TB in children (under 15 years of age) during the 10-year period, 2003–2012.

Results: TB notifications in Australia during the study period included 538 children (range, 37–66 cases per year), representing 4.6% of the total TB case load during the period (range, 3.8%–5.8% each year). Place of birth was recorded for 524 patients (97.4%); of these, 230 (43.9%) were born in Australia, 294 (56.1%) overseas. The average annual notification rate was 1.31 (95% CI, 1.20–1.43) cases per 100 000 child population. The rate was higher for overseas-born than for Australian-born children (9.57 [95% CI, 8.51–10.73] v 0.61 [95% CI, 0.53–0.69] cases per 100 000 children. The overall rate was highest among those aged 0–4 years. The annual notification rate was three times higher for Indigenous children than for non-Indigenous Australian-born children. Of 427 patients (79.4% of total) for whom the method of case detection was recorded, 37.0% were detected by contact screening, 8.7% by post-arrival immigration screening, and 54.3% by passive case detection. Pulmonary TB was the most common diagnostic classification (64.7% of patients). The most common risk factors were close contact with a TB case and recent residence in a country with a high incidence of TB. Treatment outcomes were satisfactory; 89.4% of children had completed treatment or were cured.

Conclusions: The burden of paediatric TB in Australia is low but has not changed over the past decade. The highest rates are among children born overseas, emphasising the important role of immigration screening as Australia aspires to eliminate TB.

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  • Stephen S Teo1
  • Ee Laine Tay2
  • Paul Douglas3
  • Vicki L Krause4
  • Stephen M Graham5

  • 1 Western Sydney University, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 Department of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, VIC
  • 3 Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Sydney, NSW
  • 4 Centre for Disease Control, Department of Health, Darwin, NT
  • 5 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC


We thank Christina Bareja, Cindy Toms and Mark Trungove (Australian Department of Health) for assistance with data interpretation, and members of the National Tuberculosis Advisory Committee and the NTAC Secretariat of the Department of Health for their support of this study.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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