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TB in Correctional Facilities is a Public Health Concern

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria that are spread through the air from person to person. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. People who are incarcerated are at greater risk for TB than the overall population. Inmates returning to the community with untreated TB present a serious public health concern.

TB Control in Correctional Facilities

Diagnosing and treating TB in correctional facilities reduces the risk of TB spreading within the facilities among both those incarcerated and the correctional staff, as well as in the community as a whole. TB control is challenging in correctional facilities where the incarcerated population includes a high proportion of people at greater risk for TB than the overall population. Risk factors include close living quarters; persons with a history of injection drug use; and persons with other underlying medical conditions, including relatively high rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

TB in the United States and in Correctional Facilities

In 2012, there were 9,945 reported cases of TB in the United States. Approximately 4% of all TB cases reported in the United States occurred among persons incarcerated at the time of diagnosis.

TB is Diagnosed in all Types of Correctional Facilities

Persons in correctional facilities at the time of TB diagnosis can reside in federal or state prisons, local jails, juvenile correction centers, or other facilities. Other correctional facilities include Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, jails administered by a sovereign American Indian Tribal Nation, police lockups (temporary holding facilities for persons who have not been formally charged in court), military stockades and jails, or federal national park facilities.

Steps Being Taken to Address TB in Correctional Facilities

Diagnosing and treating TB in correctional facilities is a key component to eliminating TB in the United States. CDC works with state and local health departments to ensure that diagnosing TB in inmates during entry, periodic follow-up screenings, and completing treatment are important priorities. Annual surveillance of the number of TB cases diagnosed and treated in correctional facilities is essential to these efforts.

More Information

CDC. Reported Tuberculosis in the United States, 2012. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, October 2013.