Objective: To compare the rates of acute lower respiratory tract infection (ALRI) among children in north-west Queensland, according to age, sex and Indigenous status.
Design, setting and patients: Retrospective chart review of hospitalisations at Mt Isa Base Hospital, Queensland, from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2011 among children < 15 years of age.
Main outcome measures: Rates of admission for bronchiolitis, pneumonia and bronchiectasis, calculated using population data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Results: There were 356 admissions for ALRI, involving 276 children. Of the 162 children aged < 12 months old, 125 (77.2%) were Indigenous. Hospitalisations increased over the study period, and rates were significantly higher among Indigenous children compared with non-indigenous children (24.1 v 4.5 per 1000 population per year). There were 195 admissions of 164 children with pneumonia, 126 (76.8%) of whom were Indigenous. Annual rates for Indigenous children were higher than for non-Indigenous children (13.7 v 2.3 per 1000 population). Multiple admissions were common. One-third presented with gastrointestinal symptoms and signs. Pneumococcal disease persisted despite vaccination. There were 160 hospitalisations for bronchiolitis; 114 occasions (71.3%) involved Indigenous children. Seven children had bronchiectasis; all were Indigenous.
Conclusion: Rates of ALRI in Mt Isa are comparable to those in the Northern Territory, which is reported to have rates of pneumonia among the highest in the world for children < 12 months of age. Multiple admissions are common, suggesting an even higher rate of bronchiectasis. Pneumonia may present as gastrointestinal disease, and invasive pneumococcal infection must be suspected despite vaccination.
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