The epidemiology, etiology, and pathology of occupational tuberculosis are reviewed. Tuberculosis is defined as a communicable disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium- tuberculosis and Mycobacterium-bovis with lesions being most frequent in the lungs. Physicians, nurses, medical laboratory workers, and miners are identified as being at high risk for the disease. Other high risk groups include migrant workers, overseas personnel, zoo employees, prison guards, and social workers and other persons working with the indigent. The incidence of the disease in the United States in 1981 was 11.9 cases per 100,000 persons. The incidence was higher among older persons, nonwhites, males, immigrants, alcoholics, and prisoners. Depending on its severity and duration, pulmonary tuberculosis can be associated with signs of chronic infection, fever, fatigue, malaise, cough with sputum and blood, rapid breathing, abnormal percussion and auscultation sounds, and abnormal chest radiography. Diagnosis is confirmed by the growth of the bacterium in culture. The recommended treatment includes antimicrobial drugs administered for 9 to 18 months. Inadequate chemotherapy hinders recovery and results in recurrent episodes of the disease, progressive disability, and, occasionally, death. The primary method of prevention is early identification and treatment of individuals with the disease including those infected but not manifesting clinical signs.
Occupational Respiratory Diseases. J. A. Merchant, Editor; Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, Appalachian Laboratory for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 86-102