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Large outbreaks of Q fever in the Netherlands from 2007 to 2009 were monitored using notification data of acute clinical Q fever. However, the notification system provides no information on infections that remain subclinical or for which no medical attention is sought. The present study was carried out immediately after the peak of the 2009 outbreak to estimate the ratio between Coxiella burnetii infections and Q fever notifications. In 23 postcode areas in the high-incidence area, notification rates were compared with seroconversion rates in blood donors from whom serial samples were available. This resulted in a ratio of one Q fever notification to 12.6 incident infections of C. burnetii. This ratio is time and place specific and is based on a small number of seroconversions, but is the best available factor for estimating the total number of infections. In addition, as subclinical C. burnetii infection may lead to chronic Q fever, the ratio can be used to estimate the expected number of chronic Q fever patients in the coming years and as input for cost-benefit analyses of screening options.


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