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The epidemiology of tuberculosis in children in Australia, 2003–2012

Tuberculosis (TB) in children has received increasing attention during the past decade, and the World Health Organization first estimated the global burden in 2012. In 2014, it announced that there had been 550 000 cases of TB in children aged 0–14 years in 2013,1 but acknowledged that limitations to case detection meant that this was likely to be an underestimate.2 While children with TB are not a major source for disease transmission, TB is an important cause of childhood morbidity and mortality in settings where TB is endemic; further, an incident TB case in a young child is an important sentinel indicator of recent transmission in their community.3,4 The strategic plan for TB control in Australia recognises the incidence of TB in Australian-born children as a useful indicator for enhanced surveillance in high-risk groups and for monitoring progress in eliminating TB in the Australian-born population.5,6

The incidence of TB in Australia has been low and stable for decades, with reported rates of 6.8 and 5.8 cases per 100 000 population for 1990 and 2012 respectively.6 Recent immigrants from TB-endemic countries account for most cases now detected.7