Household clustering of gastroenteritis

Epidemiol Infect. 2009 Dec;137(12):1705-12. doi: 10.1017/S0950268809990124. Epub 2009 Jun 1.


Surveillance for gastroenteritis rarely detects small, intra-familial outbreaks. This study examined intra-household transmission of gastroenteritis using prospectively collected data from 2811 participants (600 households) in a community-based study. There were 258 household clusters of gastroenteritis during the 15 months of observation involving 774 residents (28% of total). Age <6 years and attendance at a day care/kindergarten were associated with increased likelihood of inclusion in a cluster. The reach of illness into the household was extensive, with 63% of household members affected by symptoms during clusters. Simultaneous and secondary transmission of gastroenteritis appeared equally common. In only 20% of clusters did more than one member submit a faecal specimen. Of clusters where two or more specimens were submitted, concordance in laboratory confirmation of pathogens was 18.8%. Our results show that clustering of gastrointestinal symptoms within households occurs commonly, but reliance on pathogen notification data will substantially underestimate the true frequency of gastroenteritis clusters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio