Background: China contributed 8.9% of all incident cases of tuberculosis globally in 2017, and understanding the spatiotemporal distribution of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) in major transmission foci in the country is critical to ongoing efforts to improve population health.
Methods: We estimated annual PTB notification rates and their spatiotemporal distributions in Sichuan province, a major center of ongoing transmission, from 2005 to 2017. Time series decomposition was used to obtain trend components from the monthly incidence rate time series. Spatiotemporal cluster analyses were conducted to detect spatiotemporal clusters of PTB at the county level.
Results: From 2005 to 2017, 976,873 cases of active PTB and 388,739 cases of smear-positive PTB were reported in Sichuan Province, China. During this period, the overall reported incidence rate of active PTB decreased steadily at a rate of decrease (3.77 cases per 100,000 per year, 95% confidence interval (CI): 3.28–4.31) that was slightly faster than the national average rate of decrease (3.14 cases per 100,000 per year, 95% CI: 2.61–3.67). Although reported PTB incidence decreased significantly in most regions of the province, incidence was observed to be increasing in some counties with high HIV incidence and ethnic minority populations. Active and smear-positive PTB case reports exhibited seasonality, peaking in March and April, with apparent links to social dynamics and climatological factors.
Conclusions: While PTB incidence rates decreased strikingly in the study area over the past decade, improvements have not been equally distributed. Additional surveillance and control efforts should be guided by the seasonal-trend and spatiotemporal cluster analyses presented here, focusing on areas with increasing incidence rates, and updated to reflect the latest information from real-time reporting.