Matthew D. Willis 1, Carla A. Winston 2, Charles M. Heilig 2, Kevin P. Cain 2, Nicholas D. Walter 3, and William R. Mac Kenzie 2
1 Epidemic Intelligence Service Program
2 Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
3 Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, University of Colorado, Aurora
Correspondence: Matthew D. Willis, MD, MPH, Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd, MS E-10, Atlanta, GA 30333 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Background.? Although seasonal variation in tuberculosis incidence has been described in several recent studies, the mechanism underlying this seasonality remains unknown. Seasonality of tuberculosis disease may indicate the presence of season-specific risk factors that could potentially be controlled if they were better understood. We conducted this study to determine whether tuberculosis is seasonal in the United States and to describe patterns of seasonality in specific populations.
Methods.? We performed a time series decomposition analysis of tuberculosis cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1993 through 2008. Seasonal amplitude of tuberculosis disease (the difference between the months with the highest and lowest mean case counts), was calculated for the population as a whole and for populations with select demographic, clinical, and epidemiologic characteristics.
Results.? A total of 243 432 laboratory-confirmed tuberculosis cases were reported over a period of 16 years. A mean of 21.4% more cases were diagnosed in March, the peak month, compared with November, the trough month. The magnitude of seasonality did not vary with latitude. The greatest seasonal amplitude was found among children aged <5 years and in cases associated with disease clusters.
Conclusions.? Tuberculosis is a seasonal disease in the United States, with a peak in spring and trough in late fall. The latitude independence of seasonality suggests that reduced winter sunlight exposure may not be a strong contributor to tuberculosis risk. Increased seasonality among young children and clustered cases suggests that disease that is the result of recent transmission is more influenced by season than disease resulting from activation of latent infection.
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