Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of hospitalized acute respiratory illness (ARI) among young children. With RSV vaccines and immunoprophylaxis agents in clinical development, we sought to update estimates of US pediatric RSV hospitalization burden.
Children <5 years old hospitalized for ARI were enrolled through active, prospective, population-based surveillance from November 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, at 7 US pediatric hospital sites. Clinical information was obtained from parent interviews and medical records. Midturbinate nasal and throat flocked swabs were collected and tested for RSV by using molecular diagnostic assays at each site. We conducted descriptive analyses and calculated population-based rates of RSV-associated hospitalizations.
Among 2969 hospitalized children included in analyses, 1043 (35%) tested RSV-positive; 903 (87%) children who were RSV-positive were <2 years old, and 526 (50%) were <6 months old. RSV-associated hospitalization rates were 2.9 per 1000 children <5 years old and 14.7 per 1000 children <6 months old; the highest age-specific rate was observed in 1-month-old infants (25.1 per 1000). Most children who were infected with RSV (67%) had no underlying comorbid conditions and no history of preterm birth.
During the 2015–2016 season, RSV infection was associated with one-third of ARI hospitalizations in our study population of young children. Hospitalization rates were highest in infants <6 months. Most children who were RSV-positive had no history of prematurity or underlying medical conditions, suggesting that all young children could benefit from targeted interventions against RSV.