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Vaccine. 2006 Nov 10;24(44-46):6726-8. Epub 2006 Jun 9.

Heterogeneity of influenza case definitions and implications for interpreting and comparing study results.

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University of Minnesota, Medicine Service (111), Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 1 Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA.


There is substantial heterogeneity with regard to influenza case definitions used in the medical literature. These different case definitions can vary substantially with regard to their sensitivity, specificity and positive and negative predictive values for confirmed influenza. Because of this heterogeneity, it is important that the appropriate case definitions be used to answer the specific questions of the study, with more specific definitions likely being used to answer questions of vaccine efficacy and more sensitive definitions being used to assess overall disease burden. When interpreting the results of studies and comparing results across studies it is essential that the issue of heterogeneity of case definitions be addressed, and that absolute risk reduction be used as the main outcome measure of interest rather than just the relative risk reduction.

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