Tuberculosis Skin Testing Among Homeless Adults

Published In: Journal of General Internal Medicine, v. 12, no. 1, Jan. 1997, p. 25-33

by Lillian Gelberg, Christopher J. Panarites, Hal Morgenstern, Barbara Leake, Ronald Andersen, Paul Koegel

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The objective of this study was to document the prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) skin test positivity among homeless adults in Los Angeles and determine whether certain characteristics of homelessness were risk factors for TB. Tuberculosis tine test reactivity was measured. The overall prevalence of TB skin test positivity was 32%: 40% in the inner-city Skid Row area and 14% in the suburban Westside area. Using multiple logistic regression, TB skin test positivity was found to be associated with living in crowded or potentially crowded shelter conditions, long-term homelessness, geographic area, history of a psychiatric hospitalization, and age. The authors conclude that homeless adults living in congested inner-city areas are at high risk of both latent and active TB. Endemic risk factors and limited access to medical care support the need for aggressive treatment of active TB cases and innovative programs to ensure completion of prophylactic regimens by homeless individuals with latent infection.

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