Background: Pertussis can cause a serious respiratory bacterial infection, especially in infants. Between January 1 and December 31, 2015, there was an increase in the number of reported pertussis cases in Nova Scotia (NS). Surveillance practices for pertussis in NS were challenging because immunization coverage data are not available and rate information was neither timely nor precise with respect to geography. Public health officials in NS decided to adopt a new surveillance technique to inform public health actions across the Province.
Objective: To assess the use of a 40-day rolling incidence rate to monitor pertussis activity in Nova Scotia.
Intervention: A 40-day rolling incidence rate was calculated for pertussis by age groups and various levels of geography. Public health authorities continued to anticipate new cases of pertussis if the contacts of known cases were still within the incubation period (range between six and 20 days). The 40-day incubation period was chosen to reflect twice the incubation period’s upper range. Rates were calculated using Statistics Canada population projections for 2014 and then compared with traditional case counts and cumulative incidences. The usefulness of the statistics was assessed by public health decision makers.
Outcomes: Increased pertussis activity was noted across NS, most notably in the South West region. The use of a 40-day rolling incidence rate as a surveillance tool provided more timely and geographically precise descriptions of ongoing trends in pertussis activity and helped to inform appropriate public health action. Health officials valued the information provided from the rolling incidence because it allowed them to manage activities based on weekly estimates at various levels of geography.
Conclusion: Rolling incidence proved to be a useful tool to monitor a cyclical increase in pertussis cases in Nova Scotia and to inform related public health actions. The rolling incidence provided geographically precise and timely information that was useful to estimate new cases in the absence of reliable immunization coverage information. This method could supplement traditional epidemiological surveillance of future communicable disease events, especially those characterized by long incubation periods and low case counts