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Free Content Tuberculosis in the elderly in Hong Kong

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BACKGROUND: The rate of tuberculosis in Hong Kong has declined dramatically since the 1950s, but has remained high during the past decade, at around 110/100000. The reason for the persistent high rate is not clear.

OBJECTIVES: To study the trend of tuberculosis in Hong Kong during the past decade (1989 to 1998) and the clinical characteristics of tuberculosis patients ≥60 years of age, and compare them with those of the younger age groups.

METHODS: Notification rates of tuberculosis from 1989 to 1998 were obtained from the Hong Kong Government Tuberculosis and Chest Service (Chest Service), Department of Health, Hong Kong. In addition, all patients registered at the Chest Service for treatment of tuberculosis in 1996 were studied.

RESULTS: During the past decade, the notification rate of tuberculosis, which included both bacteriologically confirmed and clinically active but bacteriologically not confirmed cases, decreased in those under 60, remained unchanged in those between 60–69, and increased in those ≥70 years of age. An increase in the rate of bacteriologically confirmed cases (sputum smear or culture positive for Mycobacterium tuberculosis) in the older age groups was observed during the same period. In 1989, 31.9% of tuberculosis cases were over the age of 60 years; this proportion increased to 45.4% in 1998. The increase in the number of cases in those ≥60 years could almost account for the total increase in number of cases during the last decade. Patients in the older age groups had more advanced disease at the time of diagnosis, and a higher proportion had comorbid illnesses. They also had significantly higher mortality compared with the younger age groups.

CONCLUSION: The increasing longevity of the population and the high rate of tuberculosis in the elderly are important factors contributing to the persistent high rate of tuberculosis in Hong Kong in the past decade.
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Keywords: Hong Kong; characteristics; elderly; epidemiology; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR, China 2: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada 3: The Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Heart and Chest Diseases Association, Hong Kong, SAR, China 4: Hong Kong Government Tuberculosis and Chest Services, Hong Kong, SAR, China

Publication date: 01 September 2002

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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