COVID-19 surveillance: large decrease in clinical notifications and epidemiological investigation questionnaires for laboratory-confirmed cases after the 2nd epidemic wave, Portugal March 2020–July 2021

Vasco Ricoca Peixoto, André Vieira, Pedro Aguiar, Alexis Sentis, Carlos Carvalho, Daniel Rhys Thomas, Alexandre Abrantes, Carla Nunes

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Abstract

Introduction: In Portugal, COVID-19 laboratory notifications, clinical notifications (CNs), and epidemiological investigation questionnaires (EI) were electronically submitted by laboratories, clinicians, and public health professionals, respectively, to the Portuguese National Epidemiological Surveillance System (SINAVE), as mandated by law. We described CN and EI completeness in SINAVE to inform pandemic surveillance efforts. Methods: We calculated the proportion of COVID-19 laboratory-notified cases without CN nor EI, and without EI by region and age group, in each month, from March 2020 to July 2021. We tested the correlation between those proportions and monthly case counts in two epidemic periods and used Poisson regression to identify factors associated with the outcomes. Results: The analysis included 909,720 laboratory-notified cases. After October 2020, an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases was associated with a decrease in the submissions of CN and EI. By July 2021, 68.57% of cases had no associated CN nor EI, and 96.26% had no EI. Until January 2021, there was a positive correlation between monthly case counts and the monthly proportion of cases without CN nor EI and without EI, but not afterward. Cases aged 75 years or older had a lower proportion without CN nor EI (aRR: 0.842 CI95% 0.839–0.845). When compared to the Norte region, cases from Alentejo, Algarve, and Madeira had a lower probability of having no EI (aRR;0.659 CI 95%0.654–0.664; aRR 0.705 CI 95% 0.7–0.711; and aRR 0.363 CI 95% 0.354–0.373, respectively). Discussion: After January 2021, CN and EI were submitted in a small proportion of laboratory-confirmed cases, varying by age and region. Facing the large number of COVID-19 cases, public health services may have adopted other registry strategies including new surveillance and management tools to respond to operational needs. This may have contributed to the abandonment of official CN and EI submission. Useful knowledge on the context of infection, symptom profile, and other knowledge gaps was no longer adequately supported by SINAVE. Regular evaluation of pandemic surveillance systems' completeness is necessary to inform surveillance improvements and procedures considering dynamic objectives, usefulness, acceptability, and simplicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number963464
JournalFrontiers in public health
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • completeness
  • COVID-19
  • epidemic surveillance
  • notifications
  • surveillance attribute
  • surveillance system evaluation

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