A study of respiratory diseases in the semi-isolated community of Port Chalmers, New Zealand, began in April 1973. The intensive surveillance of a selected group of 26 families involved the weekly reporting of illness, the collection of specimens for virus, Group A streptococci and Mycoplasma pneumoniae isolation and the collection of sera at 6-month intervals. A total of 956 illnesses were reported during 32 months. The median number of illnesses per year were: infants 4·4, children 2·5, female adults 2·4 and male adults 2·0. Of all these illnesses, 57% were upper respiratory, 31% were lower respiratory and 9% were enteric. The severity of these illnesses was not greater than would be expected in open communities. Surveillance by pathogen isolation only of the whole community through the patients in the general practice was carried out concurrently.
A total of 640 nasopharyngeal swab specimens were collected from which 161 viruses, 47 Group A streptococci and 2 M. pneumoniae were isolated. The overall isolation rate was 33%. The similarities between the epidemiological patterns of respiratory disease in the open community and the isolated community are discussed.
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