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J Infect Dis. 2004 May 1;189 Suppl 1:S185-90.

Completeness of measles case reporting: review of estimates for the United States.

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Epidemiology and Surveillance Division, National Immunization Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.


Measles surveillance is complex: the patient must seek health care, the diagnosis must be recognized by the physician, and the case must be reported to health departments. The portion of total (incident) measles cases that is reported to health departments is termed "completeness of reporting." Few studies describe this measure of the quality of surveillance in the United States; these studies use different methods, but they are all limited because the actual number of measles cases needed to derive completeness of reporting could not be determined. Estimates of completeness of reporting from the 1980s and 1990s vary widely, from 3% to 58%. One study suggests that 85% of patients with measles sought health care, the proportion of compatible illnesses for which measles was considered varied from 13% to 75%, and the proportion of suspected cases that were reported varied from 22% to 67%. Few cases were laboratory-confirmed, but all were reported. Surveillance in the United States is responsive, and its sensitivity likely increases when measles is circulating. Continued efforts to reinforce the clinical recognition and reporting of measles cases are warranted.

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