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Free Content Tuberculosis cases missed in primary health care facilities: should we redefine case finding?

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SETTING: This study was conducted in Cape Town in two primary health care facilities in a sub-district with a high prevalence of bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).

OBJECTIVE: To determine the proportion of adults with respiratory symptoms who attend health care facilities but are not examined for nor diagnosed with TB in facilities where routine TB diagnosis depends on passive case finding.

DESIGN: A total of 423 adults with respiratory symptoms exiting primary health care services were consecutively enrolled during April–July 2011.

RESULTS: Twenty-one (5%) participants were diagnosed with culture-positive TB. None had sought care at the facility for their respiratory symptoms, none were asked about respiratory symptoms during their visit and none were asked to produce a sputum sample. Nine cases had attended the facility for reasons regarding their own health, while 12 cases were accompanying someone else attending the facility, or for another reason.

CONCLUSION: Patients with infectious TB attend primary health care facilities, but are not recognised and diagnosed as cases. Health care staff should search actively within facilities for cases who attend the health care services to ensure that cases are not missed. Intensified case finding should start within the facility, and should not be limited to patients who report respiratory symptoms or who are human immunodeficiency virus positive.
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Keywords: exit study; respiratory symptoms

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa 3: Department of Health, City of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa 4: International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Paris, France 5: University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2013-05-01

More about this publication?
  • 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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