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Can J Public Health. 2008 Nov-Dec;99(6):489-93.

A descriptive analysis of hospitalization due to acute gastrointestinal illness in Canada, 1995-2004.

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Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections Division, Public Health Agency of Canada, Guelph, ON.



Gastrointestinal illness (GI) remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In Canada, research has already demonstrated a rate in excess of one episode per person-year. National passive surveillance programs may be enhanced by information from hospitalizations for acute gastrointestinal disease. The objective of this report is to explore the incidence of acute GI in hospital administrative data collected by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)--specifically the hospital morbidity database (HMDB).


Data from acute care facilities and select chronic care and rehabilitation facilities across Canada were analyzed using standardized rates, and age- and sex-adjusted rates for the years 1995-2004.


The results indicate that GI causes at least 92,765 hospital admissions per year in Canada. In the majority (78.3%) of gastrointestinal hospitalizations, no specific etiology was recorded. Of the remaining diagnoses, 11.6% were due to viruses, 9.7% to bacteria and 0.3% to parasites. Age-standardized rates of hospitalizations for acute GI appear to have declined over the 10-year period.


Gastrointestinal illness is still present in the Canadian population and presents a significant burden to the health care system. Whereas the HMDB likely underestimates the true rate of GI, it does capture cases that are serious enough to require hospitalization. This is a unique source of data and highlights other pathogen-specific disease data not currently collected through national surveillance tools (e.g., viruses).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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