The average annual disease burden for the total Dutch population was highest for invasive pneumococcal disease and influenza. This is based on data on 32 infectious diseases published by RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the annual ‘State of Infectious Diseases in the Netherlands’. This disease burden is the number of healthy years lost due to infectious diseases. These and other findings in the report are used by policy makers in public health to assess preventive measures.

Some infectious diseases, such as gastro-intestinal infections, occur frequently in the population but generally do not give rise to serious complaints. Other diseases, such as tetanus, occur rarely but may lead to a relatively high number of deaths. A measure of population health that combines these aspects of disease is the Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY).

The State of Infectious Diseases 2013 estimated for the first time in a standardised way the disease burden for the Netherlands for 32 infectious diseases between 2007 and 2011. The average annual disease burden for the total Dutch population was 9444 DALYs for invasive pneumococcal disease and 8670 DALYs for influenza. This represents 16 and 15 percent, respectively, of the total burden of the 32 infectious diseases included.

After poliomyelitis and diphtheria (no cases in the period investigated), the lowest burden was estimated for rubella at 0.14 DALYs per year. The extremely low burden for these diseases is due to the extensiveness and effectiveness of the National Immunisation Programme. The individual disease burden varied from 0.2 DALYs per 100 infections for giardiasis (diarrhoea caused by a parasite) to 5081 and 3581 DALYs per hundred infections for rabies and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (‘mad cow disease’), respectively.

As in all burden of disease studies, the results depend on the availability of accurate data on the incidence of infections, and are particularly informative in providing insights into infectious disease trends. In addition, estimates will continue to improve as new relevant information becomes available.