Inaccurate ascertainment of morbidity and mortality due to influenza in administrative databases

a population-based record linkage study

David J. Muscatello, Janaki Amin, C. Raina MacIntyre, Anthony T. Newall, William D. Rawlinson, Vitali Sintchenko, Robin Gilmour, Sarah Thackway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Historically, counting influenza recorded in administrative health outcome databases has been considered insufficient to estimate influenza attributable morbidity and mortality in populations. We used database record linkage to evaluate whether modern databases have similar limitations. Methods: Person-level records were linked across databases of laboratory notified influenza, emergency department (ED) presentations, hospital admissions and death registrations, from the population ( ,6.9 million) of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, 2005 to 2008. Results: There were 2568 virologically diagnosed influenza infections notified. Among those, 25% of 40 who died, 49% of 1451 with a hospital admission and 7% of 1742 with an ED presentation had influenza recorded on the respective database record. Compared with persons aged ≥65 years and residents of regional and remote areas, respectively, children and residents of major cities were more likely to have influenza coded on their admission record. Compared with older persons and admitted patients, respectively, working age persons and non-admitted persons were more likely to have influenza coded on their ED record. On both ED and admission records, persons with influenza type A infection were more likely than those with type B infection to have influenza coded. Among death registrations, hospital admissions and ED presentations with influenza recorded as a cause of illness, 15%, 28% and 1.4%, respectively, also had laboratory notified influenza. Time trends in counts of influenza recorded on the ED, admission and death databases reflected the trend in counts of virologically diagnosed influenza. Conclusions: A minority of the death, hospital admission and ED records for persons with a virologically diagnosed influenza infection identified influenza as a cause of illness. Few database records with influenza recorded as a cause had laboratory confirmation. The databases have limited value for estimating incidence of influenza outcomes, but can be used for monitoring variation in incidence over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere98446
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2014
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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