Epidemiology and Infection

Original Papers

Respiratory infections

Incidence of acute respiratory infections in Australia

Y. CHENa1 and M. D. KIRKa2 c1

a1 ANU Medical School, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

a2 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


We used a national survey of 7578 randomly selected respondents in 2008–2009 to identify the period prevalence of acute respiratory infection (ARI) by season and state, and to estimate the incidence of ARI in the Australian community. A case was defined as any episode of cold or flu with at least one of the following symptoms: fever, chills, sore throat, running nose, or cough in the past 4 weeks. Frequency data were weighted to the Australian population. The response rate to the survey was 49%, and 19·9% (1505/7578) of respondents reported an ARI in the previous 4 weeks, which extrapolated to 68·9 million cases [95% confidence interval (CI) 65·1–72·7] of ARI in Australia annually. The incidence was 3·2 (95% CI 3·0–3·4) cases of ARI/person per year, and was highest in young children and lowest in older people. ARI imposes a significant burden on Australian society.

(Received July 07 2013)

(Revised August 06 2013)

(Accepted September 04 2013)

(Online publication October 08 2013)

Key words

  • Acute respiratory infection (ARI);
  • Australia;
  • epidemiology;
  • incidence;
  • survey


c1 Author for correspondence: Dr M. D. Kirk, Senior Lecturer, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia. (Email: martyn.kirk@anu.edu.au)