Publication date

Respiratory syncytial virus: improving surveillance and diagnostics in Europe.

Meerhoff, T. Respiratory syncytial virus: improving surveillance and diagnostics in Europe. Utrecht: NIVEL, 2010.
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Every year, about 2,500 infants are hospitalized for infection with the respiratory syncytial virus. The virus causes flu-like symptoms and thrives in wet and cold weather. As a result, the disease usually peaks around Christmas.
Respiratory syncytial virus causes a respiratory infection that resembles influenza. The infection is often confused with that too. Almost all children over the age of two have had an RS virus infection. Especially children younger than six months and premature children can become seriously ill. About 2,500 infants are admitted to hospital every year because of an RSV infection.

About the resaerch
Nivel researcher Tamara Meerhoff looked at the relationship between the occurrence of RSV infections and the weather - the temperature and the humidity - in the four weeks before. The epidemic starts around week 44 every year with a peak at week 52. “The colder, the more RSV infections,” she explains, “and the higher the humidity, the more RSV infections. Humidity turns out to be the most important. ”

Sister from flu
Because RSV infections are so similar to flu and occur at the same time of the year, they cloud flu figures in winter. As a result, it is not clear how many people have flu and how many have an RSV infection. Tamara Meerhoff therefore also investigated the surveillance of the rs virus. She looked at which countries collect data on the virus and made recommendations to improve surveillance. Quality controls in labs could, for example, contribute to better surveillance.

Weather as a predictor
“With good surveillance you can better determine when to give the high-risk groups a preventive medicine (palivizumab),” she explains, “so that fewer infants become ill and you can avoid hospital admissions. Information about the weather - temperature and humidity - can help as a predictor. If a vaccine is developed in the future, you could investigate its effectiveness in that surveillance. It would also be good to extend surveillance to other viruses to gain insight into the causes of the different respiratory infections. This can be done with the same effort. ”