New recommendations to track cases of the most common viral lung infection in babies

A summary of research published in the European Respiratory Journal

Outcomes from a workshop have set out recommendations for how to best monitor the spread of the most common viral infection in infants: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV causes several lung infections including bronchiolitis. It is globally responsible for many deaths in young children, especially in babies under 6 months old.

What is RSV?

Most babies develop an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old and, for most, the symptoms are similar to a common cold. The virus causes excess mucus and swelling of the lining of the small airways. Affected babies develop rapid breathing, wheezing, irritability, poor feeding and vomiting.

Babies infected with RSV usually require supportive care but no medication. In severe cases they are given antiviral drugs. Infants who are at high risk of developing the condition may be given treatment with an antibody called palivizumab to help reduce severe infections.

What do these recommendations outline?

Vaccines to prevent the infection are being developed. It will be important for health authorities to have information on the number of cases of this viral infection to understand the spread of the virus and where the vaccine could have an impact. There are currently no recommendations for how countries should collect this information.

The outcomes from this workshop provide these much-needed recommendations, based on the views of 29 European experts in the field. They recommend steps to take in three areas: community monitoring, hospital monitoring and laboratory monitoring.

The guidelines provide a basis for collecting good quality information on the virus at the national level in each country.

Why is this important?

Once this information is collected and coordinated across Europe, it will help health authorities to understand how widespread the virus is and what impact any future vaccine programmes could have. This will be an important step in preventing cases and reducing the harm caused by this virus.

Read the original research paper

Title: Recommendations for respiratory syncytial virus surveillance at national level

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