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Media interest increases disease reporting

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Media coverage of mumps outbreaks boosts surveillance and monitoring figures, suggests a UK study.

Media coverage of mumps outbreaks boosts surveillance and monitoring figures, suggests a UK study.

Doctors in England and Wales are legally required to report certain infectious diseases. But the authors said they appeared tobe spurred into action by media coverage.This has implications for surveillance systems, they said, as normal reporting figures may mask the true prevalence of certain diseases.

Researchers assessed the number of mumps cases in England and Wales reported over a period of 10 weeks in the summer of 2004. During weeks five to six, there was intense media coverage of the mumps epidemic in 15 to 24 year olds -sparked by a press release.

Before media interest, mumps notification rates were falling. In the fortnight in which the press release was issued, national notifications went up from 28.3 to 42.8 per 100,000 of the population. Reports fell back considerably in the following two weeks.

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2007) 61: 385-8

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