A seasonal rise in tuberculosis (TB) notifications has been confirmed in several studies. Here, we examined one hypothesis for its cause: increased transmission of TB during wintertime due to crowding. Seasonality analysis was performed on actual and simulated notifications of clustered TB cases, which are considered to be representative of recent transmission, diagnosed from 1993 to 2004 in the Netherlands (n = 4,746). To test the hypothesis of winter crowding, notifications were simulated by adding patient delay and incubation period to an infection date randomly taken to be in winter in 80% of cases. The incubation periods were derived from frequency distributions for different TB disease localizations drawn from the literature. Seasonality analysis was performed using autocorrelation function plots and spectral analysis. Actual notifications showed strong seasonality in clustered TB and clustered extrapulmonary TB cases but not in clustered pulmonary TB cases. Analysis of simulated notifications revealed barely significant seasonality only in extrapulmonary TB cases. Our results suggest that increased transmission of TB during wintertime is unlikely to be the only cause of the seasonal peak in TB notifications. A factor closer to the notification date probably contributes to the seasonality observed in TB notifications.
- vitamin-d deficiency