Is premigration health screening for tuberculosis worthwhile?

Kathleen King, Paul J. Douglas, Ken Beath

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To determine whether premigration screening for tuberculosis is worth undertaking in visa applicants, and whether screening resources are being appropriately directed towards intending migrants at highest risk of tuberculosis. Design, setting and participants: A 12-month survey of all intending migrants with tuberculosis necessitating treatment detected during the premigration health assessment process, whose medical examinations were submitted to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's Global Health Branch for assessment by a Medical Officer of the Commonwealth between 1 July 2009 I and 30 June 2010. Main outcome measures: Individuals diagnosed with active tuberculosis; proportions diagnosed by sputum smear and culture tests or clinically, and with susceptibility test results; distribution of visa types among people diagnosed. Results: In premigration assessments, 519 people were diagnosed with active tuberculosis (prevalence, 137 per 100 000 in examined population). The top source countries for people with tuberculosis were the Philippines (21.8%), India (16.8%), Vietnam (16.2%) and China (8.3%). Positive sputum smear test results were submitted for 67 cases (12.9%). Positive culture test results were obtained in 230 cases (44.3%), but only 95 of these (41.3%) had susceptibility test results, with 83 fully susceptible. Four people had multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (prevalence, 1.06 per 100 000 population). Five people had both active tuberculosis and HIV infection. Of all those diagnosed with tuberculosis, 162 (31.2%) were intending students, 82 (15.8%) were intending visitors, and 53 (10.2%) were applicants for humanitarian (refugee and Special Humanitarian Program) visas. Conclusions: Premigration health screening of intending migrants is identifying substantial numbers of people who would have required treatment for tuberculosis after arrival in Australia. The high proportion of students, visitors and refugee and humanitarian entrants with tuberculosis validates the current screening program. The screening is of benefit to the applicants, whose tuberculosis is treated earlier than it otherwise would have been, and to the I Australian population, by averting exposure to people with active tuberculosis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)534-537
    Number of pages4
    JournalMedical Journal of Australia
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2011


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