Descriptive epidemiology of infectious gastrointestinal illnesses in Sydney, Australia, 2007-2010

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Journal Article
Western Pacific surveillance and response journal : WPSAR, 2015, 6 (4), pp. 7 - 16
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OBJECTIVE: There is a lack of information about the prevalence of gastrointestinal illnesses in Australia. Current disease surveillance systems capture only a few pathogens. The aim of this study is to describe the epidemiology of infectious gastrointestinal illnesses in Sydney, Australia.METHODS: A retrospective cross-sectional study of patients with gastrointestinal symptoms who visited tertiary public hospitals in Sydney was conducted between 2007 and 2010. Patients with diarrhoea or loose stools with an enteric pathogen detected were identified. Demographic, clinical and potential risk factor data were collected from their medical records. Measures of association, descriptive and inferential statistics were analysed.RESULTS: In total, 1722 patients were included in this study. Campylobacter (22.0%) and Clostridium difficile (19.2%) were the most frequently detected pathogens. Stratified analysis showed that rotavirus (22.4%), norovirus (20.7%) and adenovirus (18.1%) mainly affected children under 5 years; older children (5-12 years) were frequently infected with Campylobacter spp. (29.8%) and non-typhoid Salmonella spp. (24.4%); infections with C. difficile increased with age.Campylobacter and non-typhoid Salmonella spp. showed increased incidence in summer months (December to February), while rotavirus infections peaked in the cooler months (June to November).DISCUSSION: This study revealed that gastrointestinal illness remains a major public health issue in Sydney. Improvement of current disease surveillance and prevention and control measures are required. This study emphasizes the importance of laboratory diagnosis of enteric infections and the need for better clinical data collection to improve management of disease risk factors in the community.
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