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The tip of the iceberg: incompleteness of measles reporting during a large outbreak in The Netherlands in 2013–2014

  • T. Woudenberg (a1), F. Woonink (a2), J. Kerkhof (a1), K. Cox (a2), W.L.M. Ruijs (a1), R. van Binnendijk (a1), H. de Melker (a1), S.J.M. Hahné (a1) and J. Wallinga (a1) (a3)...

Measles is a notifiable disease, but not everyone infected seeks care, nor is every consultation reported. We estimated the completeness of reporting during a measles outbreak in The Netherlands in 2013–2014. Children below 15 years of age in a low vaccination coverage community (n = 3422) received a questionnaire to identify measles cases. Cases found in the survey were matched with the register of notifiable diseases to estimate the completeness of reporting. Second, completeness of reporting was assessed by comparing the number of susceptible individuals prior to the outbreak with the number of reported cases in the surveyed community and on a national level.

We found 307 (15%) self-identified measles cases among 2077 returned questionnaires (61%), of which 27 could be matched to a case reported to the national register; completeness of reporting was 8.8%. Based on the number of susceptible individuals and number of reported cases in the surveyed community and on national level, the completeness of reporting was estimated to be 9.1% and 8.6%, respectively. Estimating the completeness of reporting gave almost identical estimates, which lends support to the credibility and validity of both approaches. The size of the 2013–2014 outbreak approximated 31 400 measles infections.

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Author for correspondence: T. Woudenberg, E-mail:
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Preliminary results have been presented at ESCAIDE, November 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Epidemiology & Infection
  • ISSN: 0950-2688
  • EISSN: 1469-4409
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