Background: The crowded environment of correctional facilities may enhance infectious diseases transmission, such as tuberculosis.
Objectives: To define the tuberculosis burden in prisons in Israel, a country of low TB incidence (7.9 cases:100,000 population in 2004), in which about 13,000 inmates are being incarcerated annually, and to recommend policy adaptations for TB control.
Methods: All prison clinic lung records from 1998 through 2004 in Israel were reviewed to identify pulmonary TB patients. Additionally, we reviewed TB epidemiological investigation files from one northern prison (years 2002 through 2005) to evaluate possible transmission of the disease.
Results: During the study period 23 Israeli inmates had pulmonary TB (25 cases/100,000 prisoners), which was 3.5 times higher than for the general population. Of those, 18 (78%) were born in the Former Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel after 1990. Four pulmonary TB cases in the evaluated prison were reported, and 22% (149/670) of all inmates and staff were referred for treatment of latent TB infection.
Conclusions: To prevent future TB cases, we recommend new prevention measures, including a symptom questionnaire for all new inmates and selective tuberculin skin testing for inmates infected with human immunodeficiency virus/AIDS, those who inject drugs, and those who emigrated from the former Soviet Union after 1990. New staff should be screened by the two-step tuberculin skin test and annual symptoms questionnaire thereafter. Incarceration may be used as a point of detection for TB and a window of opportunity for treatment in this hard-to-reach population.