Surveillance of Infectious Diseases by the Sentinel Laboratory Network in Belgium: 30 Years of Continuous ImprovementReport as inadecuate

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In 1983 the sentinel laboratory network was established because of the need to describe the epidemiological evolution of infectious diseases. During the study period of 30 years 1983–2013, microbiology laboratories reported on weekly basis the laboratory diagnosed cases for a selection of infectious diseases. This resulted in a large longitudinal laboratory based database allowing to provide trends over time and distribution by person and place. During this period, adaptations to data collection were made due to changes in diagnostic methods and public health priorities, introduction and application of digital revolution, and multiple reorganizations of the laboratories. Since the surveillance network is dynamic, it necessitates a continuous evaluation to ensure that, over time, it continues to be representative of the general epidemiological trends in the country. Secondly the aim is to examine the robustness and stability of this surveillance system. Here we demonstrated that the flexibility of the data collection methodology by the sentinel laboratory network is unique and that adaptations do not affect the capacity of the system to follow trends. Therefore, the surveillance by this network is representative of the current epidemiological situation in Belgium. To our knowledge, no such surveillance network with such a long-term follow-up and demonstrated stability for multiple infectious diseases in the general population was earlier described. Furthermore, expected trends due to the implementation of vaccination or other events were accurately detected. The collected data obtained from this network allows interesting comparisons with other national and international information sources.

Author: Gaëtan Muyldermans , Geneviève Ducoffre, Mathias Leroy, Yves Dupont, Sophie Quolin, participating sentinel laboratories



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