A dynamic case definition is warranted for adequate notification in an extended epidemic setting: The Dutch Q fever outbreak 2007-2009 as exemplar

G. Jaramillo-Gutierrez, M. C. Wegdam-Blans, R. ter Schegget, J. M. Korbeeck, R. van Aken, H. A. Bijlmer, J. H. Tjhie, M. P. Koopmans

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Abstract

Q fever is a notifiable disease in the Netherlands: laboratories are obliged to notify possible cases to the Municipal Health Services. These services then try to reconfirm cases with additional clinical and epidemiological data and provide anonymised reports to the national case register of notifiable diseases. Since the start of the 2007-2009 Dutch Q fever outbreak, notification rules remained unchanged, despite new laboratory insights and altered epidemiology. In this study, we retrospectively analysed how these changes influenced the proportion of laboratory-defined acute Q fever cases (confirmed, probable and possible) that were included in the national case register, during (2009) and after the outbreak (2010 and 2011). The number of laboratory-defined cases notified to the Municipal Health Services was 377 in2009, 96 in 2010 and 50 in 2011. Of these, 186 (49.3%) in 2009, 12 (12.5%) in 2010 and 9 (18.0%) in 2011 were confirmed as acute infection by laboratory interpretation. The proportion of laboratory-defined acute Q fever cases that was reconfirmed by the Municipal Health Services and that were included in the national case register decreased from 90% in 2009, to 22% and 24% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The decrease was observed in all categories of cases, including those considered to be confirmed by laboratory criteria. Continued use of a pre-outbreak case definition led to over-reporting of cases to the Municipal Health Services in the post-epidemic years. Therefore we recommend dynamic laboratory notification rules, by reviewing case definitions periodically in an ongoing epidemic, as in the Dutch Q fever outbreak.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEurosurveillance
Volume18
Issue number41
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

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