After studying the impact of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) on children worldwide, researchers in the UK are calling for urgent action to fight the virus.
RSV is an infection with symptoms similar to those a bad cold. It spreads easily and is very common, with most children being infected with it by the time they are 2 years old. Most of the time RSV is not serious, but, in some cases, it can lead to more severe lung conditions like pneumonia or bronchiolitis. At the moment there is no widely-used vaccine for RSV.
Scientists looked at 329 studies that looked at the impact of RSV in children. They found that there are about 33 million cases of RSV each year in children under the age of 5 years old. Of these, around 3 million (9%) need hospital treatment because of complications and around 115,000 (0.3%) die.
Nearly half of these deaths are in children under 6 months old, and almost all – over 99% – are from poorer countries.
The researchers found that half of the children with estimated RSV infections were in India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia. However, the overall number of children getting RSV could be even higher, as there is a lack of data in Africa and South Asia.
Based on their findings, the scientists emphasise the importance of affordable treatments and effective RSV vaccines to reduce the number of children dying from complications.
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