Interventions introduced to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 led to a widespread reduction in childhood infections. However, from spring 2021 onwards the United Kingdom and Ireland experienced an unusual out-of-season epidemic of respiratory disease.
We conducted a prospective observational study (BronchStart), enrolling children 0-23 months of age presenting with bronchiolitis, lower respiratory tract infection or first episode of wheeze to 59 Emergency Departments across England, Scotland and Ireland from May 2021 to April 2022. We combined testing data with national admissions datasets to infer the impact of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disease.
The BronchStart study collected data on 17,899 presentations for 17,164 children. Risk factors for admission and escalation of care included prematurity and congenital heart disease, but most admissions were for previously healthy term-born children. Of those aged 0-11 months who were admitted and tested for RSV, 1,907/3,912 (48.7%) tested positive. We estimate that every year in England and Scotland 28,561 (95% confidence interval 27,637-29,486) infants are admitted with RSV infection.
RSV infection was the main cause of hospitalisations in this cohort, but 51.3% of admissions in infants were not associated with the virus. The majority of admissions were in previously healthy term-born infants.


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Williams, T., Marlow, R., Hardelid, P., Lyttle, M., Lewis, K., Mpamhanga, C., Cunningham, S., Roland, D., Fraser, K., Baker, J., Bailie, H., Tolhurst-Cleaver, M., Stellman, R., Hartshorn, S., Watson, J., Begley, R., Hingley, S., Dutta, M., Ramsden, G., Ryan, E., Durnin, S., Koe, S., Halasz, G., Brearey, S., Ranasinghe, D., Gopi, M., Spalding, C., Gomes, S., Woods, G., Aldridge, P., Owens, V., Balehithlu, H., Richardson, S., Hartin, D., Mitchell, R., Downes, A., Roland, D., Sequeira, S., Tillett, J., Dowson, S., Tomlinson, J., Da costa, A., Sime, A., Kirby, C., Lawton, A., Wear, R., Gough, C., Gardner, S., Haslam, Z., Rimmer, C., Steensma, J., Rao, S., Deall, H., Hall, S., Middleton, C., Walton, E., Mackenzie, F., Thakker, M., Robinson, G., Johnson, G., Wong, S., Diaba, C., Foster, S., Browning, J., Rooney, L., Challen, K., Rosser, M., Patel, P., Spicer, A., Bagshaw, L., Gray, S., Gibbs, S., Mullen, N., Fairley, L., Bayreuther, J., James, D., Jarman, H., O'leary, C., Clerihew, L., Astin-Chamberlain, R., Trippick, S., Armstrong, L., Mulligan, J., Keers, S., Cahill, B., Mohammad, M., Burridge, R., Wilson, S., Anpananthar, A., Jamall, E. & Lacy, D. 2023, 'Clinical Impact of Serious Respiratory Disease in Children Under the Age of 2 Years During the 2021–2022 Bronchiolitis Season in England, Scotland, and Ireland', Journal of Infectious Diseases, article no: jiad551. https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiad551

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