Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

Frequency of infectious gastrointestinal illness in Australia, 2002: regional, seasonal and demographic variation

G. V. HALLa1 c1, M. D. KIRKa2, R. ASHBOLTa3, R. STAFFORDa4, K. LALORa5 and the OzFoodNet Working Group

a1 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

a2 OzFoodNet (Central), Food Safety and Surveillance Section, Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra, Australia

a3 OzFoodNet (Tasmania), Public and Environmental Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services, Hobart, Australia

a4 OzFoodNet (Queensland), Communicable Diseases Unit, Queensland Health, Brisbane, Australia

a5 OzFoodNet (Victoria), Communicable Diseases Section, Department of Human Services, Melbourne, Australia


To estimate the frequency of infectious gastroenteritis across Australia, and to identify risk factors, we conducted a national telephone survey of 6087 randomly selected respondents in 2001–2002. The case definition was three or more loose stools and/or two or more vomits in a 24-hour period in the last 4 weeks, with adjustment to exclude non-infectious causes and symptoms secondary to a respiratory infection. Frequency data were weighted to the Australian population. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess potential risk factors including season, region, demographic and socioeconomic status. Among contacted individuals, 67% responded. The case definition applied to 7% of respondents (450/6087) which extrapolates to 17·2 million (95% CI 14·5–19·9 million) cases of gastroenteritis in Australia in one year, or 0·92 (95% CI 0·77–1·06) cases/person per year. In the multivariate model, the odds of having gastroenteritis were increased in summer and in the warmest state, in young children, females, those with higher socioeconomic status and those without health insurance.

(Accepted April 09 2005)

(Online publication July 22 2005)


c1 Author for correspondence: Dr G. V. Hall, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. (Email: gillian.hall@anu.edu.au)


† Members of the Group are given in the Appendix.