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From 2007 to 2010, the largest reported Q-fever epidemic occurred in the Netherlands with 4026 notified laboratory-confirmed cases. During the course of the epidemic, health-seeking behaviour changed and awareness among health professionals increased. Changes in laboratory workflows were implemented. The aim of this study was to analyse how these changes instigated adjustments of notification criteria and how these adjustments affected the monitoring and interpretation of the epidemic. We used the articles on laboratory procedures related to the epidemic and a description of the changes that were made to the notification criteria. We compared the output of a regional laboratory with notifications to the regional Public Health Service and the national register of infectious diseases. We compared the international notification criteria for acute Q-fever. Screening with ELISA IgM phase II and PCR was added to the diagnostic workflow. In the course of the epidemic, serology often revealed a positive IgG/IgM result although cases were not infected recently. With increasing background seroprevalence, the presence of IgM antibodies can only be suggestive for acute Q-fever and has to be confirmed either by seroconversion of IgG or a positive PCR result. Differences in sero-epidemiology make it unlikely that full harmonisation of notification criteria between countries is feasible.
From 2007 to 2010, The Netherlands experienced a major Q fever outbreak with more than 4000 notifications. Previous studies suggested that Q fever patients could suffer long-term post-infection health impairments, especially fatigue. Our objective was to assess the Coxiella burnetii antibody prevalence and health status including fatigue, and assess their interrelationship in Herpen, a high-incidence village, 7 years after the outbreak began. In 2014, we invited all 2161 adult inhabitants for a questionnaire and a C. burnetii indirect fluorescence antibody assay (IFA). The health status was measured with the Nijmegen Clinical Screening Instrument (NCSI), consisting of eight subdomains including fatigue. Of the 70·1% (1517/2161) participants, 33·8% (513/1517) were IFA positive. Of 147 participants who were IFA positive in 2007, 25 (17%) seroreverted and were now IFA negative. Not positive IFA status, but age <50 years, smoking and co-morbidity, were independent risk factors for fatigue. Notified participants reported significantly more often fatigue (31/49, 63%) than non-notified IFA-positive participants (150/451, 33%). Although fatigue is a common sequel after acute Q fever, in this community-based survey we found no difference in fatigue levels between participants with and without C. burnetii antibodies.
Q fever patients are often reported to experience a long-term impaired health status, including fatigue, which can persist for many years. During the large Q fever epidemic in The Netherlands, many patients with a laboratory-confirmed Coxiella burnetii infection were not notified as acute Q fever because they did not fulfil the clinical criteria of the acute Q fever case definition (fever, pneumonia and/or hepatitis). Our study assessed and compared the long-term health status of notified and non-notified Q fever patients at 4 years after onset of illness, using the Nijmegen Clinical Screening Instrument (NCSI). The study included 448 notified and 193 non-notified Q fever patients. The most severely affected subdomain in both patient groups was ‘Fatigue’ (50·5% of the notified and 54·6% of the non-notified patients had severe fatigue). Long-term health status did not differ significantly between the notified and non-notified patient groups, and patients scored worse on all subdomains compared to a healthy reference group. Our findings suggest that the magnitude of the 2007–2009 Q fever outbreak in The Netherlands was underestimated when only notified patients according to the European Union case definition are considered.
Data about the effectiveness of different antibiotic regimens for the treatment of acute Q fever from clinical studies is scarce. We analysed the antibiotic treatment regimens of acute Q fever patients in 2007 and 2008 in The Netherlands and assessed whether hospitalization after a minimum of 2 days antibiotic therapy was related to the initial antibiotic therapy. Clinical data on antibiotic treatment and risk factors of acute Q fever patients were obtained from general practitioner medical records and self-reported by patients. For the 438 study patients, doxycycline was the most commonly prescribed initial antibiotic in both study years. After adjustments for confounding factors, doxycycline (200 mg/day), moxifloxacin, as well as other possibly effective antibiotics [including other new fluoroquinolones and doxycycline (100 mg/day)] showed significant lower risks for hospitalization compared to β-lactam antibiotics and azithromycin (reference group), with the lowest risk for doxycycline (200 mg/day) (odds ratio 0·04, 95% confidence interval 0·01–0·22). These data support current guidelines that recommend doxycycline as the first choice antibiotic for treating acute Q fever.
Effective infection control measures during norovirus outbreaks are urgently needed in places where vulnerable individuals gather. In the present study, the effect of a number of measures was investigated in daily practice. Forty-nine Dutch nursing homes were monitored prospectively for norovirus outbreaks during two winter seasons. A total of 37 norovirus outbreaks were registered. Control measures were most effective when implemented within 3 days after onset of disease of the first patient. Measures targeted at reduced transmission between persons, via aerosols, and via contaminated surfaces reduced illness in staff and in residents. Reducing illness in staff results in fewer costs for sick leave and substitution of staff and less disruption in the care of residents. The effect of control measures on outbreak duration was limited. This is the first intervention study examining the effect of control measures. Further research is needed to extend and refine the conclusions.
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