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Pertussis is most severe among unvaccinated infants (< 1 year of age), and still leads to several reported deaths in the Netherlands every year. In order to avoid pertussis-related infant morbidity and mortality, pertussis surveillance data are used to guide pertussis control measures. However, more insight into the accuracy of pertussis surveillance and control, and into the range of healthcare and public health-related factors that impede this are needed. We analysed a unique combination of data sources from one Dutch region of 1.1 million residents, including data from laboratory databases and local public health notifications between 2010 and 2013. This large study (n = 12,090 pertussis tests) reveals possible misdiagnoses, substantial under-notification (18%, 412/2,301 laboratory positive episodes) and a delay between patient symptoms and notification to the local public health services (median 34 days, interquartile range (IQR): 27–54). It is likely that the misdiagnoses, under-notification and overall delay in surveillance data are not unique to this area of the Netherlands, and are generalisable to other countries in Europe. In addition to preventive measures such as maternal immunisation, based on current findings, we further recommend greater adherence to testing guidelines, standardisation of test interpretation guidelines, use of automatic notification systems and earlier preventive measures.


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