Little is known about the annual incidence and societal costs due to acute gastroenteritis in Sweden, information important for planning control measures and setting priorities. We conducted a survey in May 2009 to estimate the incidence and production losses due to acute gastroenteritis.
A postal self-administered questionnaire was distributed to 4000 persons randomly selected from the national registry. We asked about the number of episodes of acute gastroenteritis during the previous 12 months followed by questions about symptoms, duration of sickness and work/school absenteeism related to the last episode. A case was defined as a person with at least one episode of diarrhea or three or more of the symptoms: vomiting, stomach cramps, nausea or fever. We adjusted the incidence estimate for age and calculated a 95% confidence interval. Production losses were calculated using data on average wage costs by age group and gender from Statistics Sweden.
Among 2564 respondents (66% response rate), 439 cases were identified with 1.6 episodes of gastroenteritis per case. In total, 19% (95%CI 17-20%) of the population suffered at least one episode of acute gastroenteritis during the study period. Of the cases, 74% took sick leave and 81% of parents of cases <12 years stayed home from work (median duration=3 days). Mean production losses per episode and case taking sick leave was EUR 161 and per parent staying at home with a sick child EUR 239. Total production losses were EUR 223 million.
Acute gastroenteritis occurred in 1 in 5 people during the study period resulting in extensive total production losses. Future surveys should also consider health care costs to estimate the total cost of illness due to acute gastroenteritis.