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Childhood Diarrhea Prevalent in Industrialized Nations

Risk factors include recent travel, daycare transmission and lower socioeconomic status

TUESDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood diarrhea is still an important cause of morbidity in developed, industrialized countries where the risk factors include child-to-child transmission in daycare centers, foreign travel and lower socioeconomic status, according to a study in the January issue of Epidemiology.

Steen Ethelberg, Ph.D., from the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues conducted a case-control study of 422 children with diarrhea and 866 healthy children the same age. All lived in Denmark and were under 5 years of age between March 2000 and December 2002. Risk factors were assessed by parent questionnaire and etiology was determined by stool analysis.

The authors found that 73 cases were caused by bacteria, and the greatest risk factor was recent foreign travel (odds ratio, 9.67). Lower socioeconomic status was also a risk factor for bacterial diarrhea. Viral agents were found in 88 cases and were linked to contact with an ill person, perhaps at a daycare or hospital. The majority of the cases (222) had an unknown etiology.

"This study shows that the etiology of diarrhea in industrialized countries is multifactorial, like it is in developing countries, but with somewhat different risk factors," the authors conclude. "Limiting child-to-child transmission of disease in daycare centers may substantially reduce the disease burden."

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