A community-based study of respiratory episodes in Melbourne, Australia

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2003;27(4):399-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2003.tb00416.x.


Objective: To provide recent data regarding the epidemiology of community-based respiratory infections in Australia.

Methods: A longitudinal study between 1997-99 involving collection of a health diary from 600 families in Melbourne.

Results: More than 80% of study participants reported at least one respiratory episode over 15 months. An average of 2.2 respiratory episodes per person per year was reported, with a mean episode duration of 6.3 days. On average, subjects were symptomatic for 4.2% of the study days. Compared with other age groups, children aged less than two years were most likely to have at least one respiratory episode, a greater number of episodes per person and the longest episode duration (6.8 days). Approximately, one in three (28.7%) respiratory episodes were associated with a doctor's visit, and one in four (23%) necessitated time off school or work. Exposure to other people with respiratory symptoms was commonly reported.

Conclusions: Respiratory infections are common, cause a significant amount of morbidity, and are major contributors to the total community health burden.

Implications: The direct and indirect costs of respiratory infections to the community are substantial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Gastroenteritis / complications
  • Gastroenteritis / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Water Supply