Background: Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance has been adopted globally as a key strategy for monitoring the progress of the polio eradication initiative. Hereby, to evaluate the completeness of the ascertainment of AFP cases in Italy, a hospital-discharges based search was carried out. Methods: AFP cases occurring between 2007 and 2016 among children under 15 years of age were searched in the Italian Hospital Discharge Records (HDR) database using specific ICD-9-CM diagnostic codes. AFP cases identified between 2015 and 2016 were then compared with those notified to the National Surveillance System (NSS). Results: Over a 10-year period, 4163 hospital discharges with diagnosis of AFP were reported in Italy. Among these, 956 (23.0%) were acute infective polyneuritis, 1803 (43.3%) myopathy, and 1408 (33.8%) encephalitis, myelitis and encephalomyelitis. During the study period, a decreasing trend was observed for all diagnoses and overall the annual incidence rate (IR) declined from 5.5 to 4.5 per 100,000 children. Comparing NSS with HDR data in 2015-2016, we found a remarkable underreporting, being AFP cases from NSS only 14% of those recorded in HDR. In particular, the acute infective polyneuritis cases reported to NSS accounted for 42.6% of those detected in HDR, while only 0.9% of myopathy cases and 13.1% of encephalitis/myelitis/encephalomyelitis cases have been notified to NSS. The highest AFP IRs per 100,000 children calculated on HDR data were identified in Liguria (17.4), Sicily (5.7), and Veneto (5.1) Regions; regarding the AFP notified to the NSS, 11 out of 21 Regions failed to reach the number of expected cases (based on 1/100,000 rate), and the highest discrepancies were observed in the Northern Regions. Overall, the national AFP rate was equal to 0.6, therefore did not reach the target value. Conclusions: AFP surveillance data are the final measure of a country's progress towards polio eradication. The historical data obtained by the HDR have been useful to assess the completeness of the notification data and to identify the Regions with a low AFP ascertainment rate in order to improve the national surveillance system.
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