Underreporting of hepatitis A in non-endemic countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BMC Infect Dis. 2016 Jun 13:16:281. doi: 10.1186/s12879-016-1636-6.


Background: Information on reporting completeness of passive surveillance systems can improve the quality of and public health response to surveillance data and better inform public health planning. As a result, we systematically reviewed available literature on reporting completeness of hepatitis A in non-endemic countries.

Methods: We searched Medline, EMBASE and grey literature sources, restricting to studies published in English between 1997 and 21 May 2015. Primary studies on hepatitis A surveillance and underreporting in non-endemic countries were included, and assessed for risk of bias. A pooled proportion of reporting completeness was estimated using a DerSimonian-Laird random-effects model.

Results: Diagnosed hepatitis A cases identified through positive laboratory tests, physician visits, and inpatient hospital discharges were underreported to public health in all eight included studies. Reporting completeness ranged from 4 to 97 % (pooled proportion 59 %, 95 % confidence interval = 32 %, 84 %). Substantial heterogeneity was observed, which may be explained by differences in the referent data sources used to identify diagnosed cases and in case reporting mechanisms and/or staffing infrastructure. Completeness was improved in settings where case reporting was automated or where dedicated staff had clear reporting responsibilities.

Conclusions: Future studies that evaluate reporting completeness should describe the context, components, and operations of the surveillance system being evaluated in order to identify modifiable characteristics that improve system sensitivity and utility. Additionally, reporting completeness should be assessed across high risk groups to inform equitable allocation of public health resources and evaluate the effectiveness of targeted interventions.

Keywords: Disease notification; Hepatitis A; Population surveillance; Underreporting.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Notification / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Hepatitis A / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Public Health

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