Human respiratory syncytial virus and influenza seasonality patterns—Early findings from the WHO global respiratory syncytial virus surveillance

the WHO RSV surveillance Group

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes illnesses among all age groups and presents a burden to healthcare services. To better understand the epidemiology and seasonality of RSV in different geographical areas, the World Health Organization (WHO) coordinated a pilot initiative to access the feasibility of establishing RSV surveillance using the existing Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) platform. Objectives: To describe and compare RSV and influenza seasonality in countries in the northern andsouthern temperate, and tropics during the period January 2017 to April 2019. Methods: Fourteen countries in six WHO regions participating in the GISRS were invited for the pilot. Hospitalized patients presenting with severe acute respiratory illness (SARI), SARI without fever and outpatients presenting with acute respiratory illness (ARI) were enrolled from January 2017 to April 2019. The expected minimum sample size was 20 samples per week, year-round, per country. Real-time RT-PCR was used to detect RSV and influenza viruses. Results were uploaded to the WHO FluMart platform. Results: Annual seasonality of RSV was observed in all countries, which overlapped to a large extent with the influenza activity. In countries, in temperate regions RSV peaked in the autumn/winter months. In Egypt, a subtropical country, RSV activity peaked in the cooler season. In the tropical regions, RSV peaked during the rainy seasons. Conclusion: Early findings from the WHO RSV surveillance pilot based on the GISRS suggest annual seasonal patterns for of RSV circulation that overlap with influenza. RSV surveillance needs to be continued for several more seasons to establish seasonality patterns to inform prevention and control strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-646
Number of pages9
JournalInfluenza and other Respiratory Viruses
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The WHO global RSV surveillance pilot project was supported by an award made to the World Health Organization by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (grant no. OPP1127419). The authors are grateful to the National Influenza Centres, Public Health Laboratories, and the Ministries of Health of the participating countries for piloting the RSV surveillance strategy. We thank the Respiratory Viruses Branch, Division of Viral Diseases, CDC, Atlanta; the Public Health England at Colindale; and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg for providing support as RSV reference laboratories for this project. We thank colleagues in the Global Influenza Programme, Influenza Preparedness and Response, Dept. of Infectious Hazards Management of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme for supporting this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Global Influenza Surveillance and Response network
  • human respiratory syncytial virus
  • influenza
  • seasonality


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