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Although the World Health Organization recommends contact investigations around air travel-associated sputum smear-positive tuberculosis (TB) patients, evidence suggests that the information thus obtained may have overestimated the risk of TB infection because it involved some contacts born in countries with high TB burden who were likely to have been infected with TB in the past, or because tuberculin skin tests were used, which are less specific than the interferon gamma release assay (IGRA) particularly in areas where Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination coverage is high. We conducted a questionnaire survey on air travel-associated TB contact investigations in local health offices of Japan from 2012 to 2015, focusing on IGRA positivity. Among 651 air travel-associated TB contacts, average positivity was 3.8% (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.5–5.6) with a statistically significant increasing trend with older age (p < 0.0094). Positivity among 0–34 year-old contacts was 1.0% (95% CI: 0.12–3.5%), suggesting their risk of TB infection is as small as among Japanese young adults with low risk of TB infection (positivity: 0.85–0.90%). Limiting the contact investigation to fewer passengers (within two seats surrounding the index case, rather than two rows) seems reasonable in the case of aircraft with many seats per row.


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