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Euro Surveill. 2014 Oct 9;19(40):20921.

Epidemiology of pertussis in Italy: disease trends over the last century.

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Bambino Gesu Children s Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy.


We reviewed the epidemiology of pertussis in Italy over the last 125 years to identify disease trends and factors that could have influenced these trends. We described mortality rates (1888-2012), case fatality rates (1925-2012), cumulative incidence rates (1925-2013) and age-specific incidence rates (1974-2013). We compared data from routine surveillance with data from a paediatric sentinel surveillance system to estimate under-notification. Pertussis mortality decreased from 42.5 per 100,000 population in 1890 to no reported pertussis-related death after 2002. Incidence decreased from 86.3 per 100,000 in 1927 to 1 per 100,000 after 2008. Vaccine coverage increased from 32.8% in 1993 to about 96% after 2006. As for under-notification, mean sentinel/routine surveillance incidence ratio increased with age (from 1.8 in <1 year-olds to 12.9 in 10-14 year-olds). Pertussis mortality decreased before the introduction of immunisation. Incidence has decreased only after the introduction of pertussis vaccine and in particular after the achievement of a high immunisation coverage with acellular vaccines. Routine surveillance does not show an increase in cumulative incidence nor in ≥ 15 year-olds as reported by other countries. Underrecognition because of atypical presentation and the infrequent use of laboratory tests may be responsible for under-notification, and therefore affect incidence reports and management of immunisation programmes.

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