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Am J Public Health. 1999 March; 89(3): 374–378.
PMCID: PMC1508601

A deviation bar chart for detecting dengue outbreaks in Puerto Rico.


OBJECTIVES: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deviation bar chart (Statistical Software for Public Health Surveillance) and laboratory-based surveillance data were evaluated for their utility in detecting dengue outbreaks in Puerto Rico. METHODS: A significant increase in dengue incidence was defined as an excess of suspected cases of more than 2 SDs beyond the mean for all 4-week periods from April through June (the period of lowest seasonal incidence), 1989 through 1993. An outbreak was defined as a cumulative annual rate of reported dengue greater than 3 per 1000 population. RESULTS: Retrospective application of the system to 1994 data showed agreement with previous analyses. In 1995 and 1996, 36.4% and 27.3%, respectively, of municipalities with a significant increase in reports for 2 or more consecutive weeks before the first week of September had an outbreak, compared with 9.0% (in 1995, P = .042) and 6.0% (in 1996, P = .054) of towns without a significant increase. The system showed sensitivity near 40%, specificity near 89%, and accuracy in classifying municipalities near 84%. CONCLUSIONS: This method provides a statistically based, visually striking, specific, and timely signal for dengue control efforts.

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