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TB in Children | Print |

Children are primarily exposed to tuberculosis through infectious adults, with whom they are in contact. Children who present with active TB disease are an indicator of current TB transmission in their environment because they will not likely have been latently infected. Therefore, during TB investigations involving children the goal is to find the source rather than, as with adults, find contacts.

Children with tuberculosis disease tend not to be as contagious as adults, because they usually have smaller lung lesions and do not cough as much. Additionally, confirming the diagnosis of TB in children by culture can be difficult due to difficulties producing adequate sputum samples as well as typically having lower levels of TB bacteria than adults. Tuberculosis diagnosis in children usually follows detection of an adult case and relies on tuberculin skin testing, chest radiograph, and observation of clinical signs and symptoms. The early signs and symptoms of TB disease are broad and not specific to tuberculosis. Some examples include failure to thrive, weight loss, fever and lethargy. Frequently children have no symptoms at all. It is, therefore, not uncommon for the child to be misdiagnosed initially. These issues, coupled with the fact that children are especially vulnerable to rapid progression from infection to active tuberculosis disease add a sense of urgency when investigating cases involving children.