Open Access Research article

Burden of self-reported acute gastrointestinal illness in China: a population-based survey

Yan Chen1, Wei-Xing Yan1, Yi-Jing Zhou2, Shi-Qi Zhen2, Rong-Hua Zhang3, Jiang Chen3, Zhan-Hua Liu4, Heng-Yi Cheng4, Hong Liu5, Sheng-Gang Duan5, Zhen Lan6, Ji-Chang Sun7, Xing-Yong You7, Jing-Guang Li1 and Yong-Ning Wu1*

Author affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Food Safety Risk Assessment of Ministry of Health, China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, 7 Panjiayuan Nanli, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100021, China

2 Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanjing, China

3 Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Hangzhou, China

4 Guangxi Regional Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanning, China

5 Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shanghai, China

6 Sichuan Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Chengdu, China

7 Jiangxi Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanchang, China

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:456  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-456

Published: 8 May 2013



Acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) is an important public-health problem worldwide. Previous national studies of the incidence of AGI in China were performed decades ago, and detailed information was not available. This study therefore sought to determine the magnitude, distribution, and burden of self-reported AGI in China.


Twelve-month, retrospective face-to-face surveys were conducted in 20 sentinel sites from six provinces between July 2010 and July 2011.


In total, 39686 interviews were completed. The overall adjusted monthly prevalence of AGI was 4.2% (95% confidence interval, 4.0–4.4), corresponding to 0.56 episodes of AGI per person-year. Rates of AGI were highest in children aged < 5 years. Healthcare was sought by 56.1% of those reporting illness. Of the cases who visited a doctor, 32.7% submitted a stool sample. The use of antibiotics was reported by 49.7% of the cases who sought medical care and 54.0% took antidiarrhoeals. In the multivariable model, gender, age, education, household type, residence, season, province and travel were significant risk factors of being a case of AGI.


This first population-based study in China indicated that AGI represents a substantial burden of health. Further research into the specific pathogens is needed to better estimate the burden of AGI and foodborne disease in China.