BACKGROUND: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-associated acute lower respiratory infection is a common cause for hospitalization and hospital deaths in young children globally. There is urgent need to generate evidence to inform immunization policies when RSV vaccines become available. The WHO piloted a RSV surveillance strategy that leverages the existing capacities of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) to better understand RSV seasonality, high-risk groups, validate case definitions, and develop laboratory and surveillance standards for RSV.
METHODS: The RSV sentinel surveillance strategy was piloted in 14 countries. Patients across all age groups presenting to sentinel hospitals and clinics were screened all year-round using extended severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and acute respiratory infection (ARI) case definitions for hospital and primary care settings, respectively. Respiratory specimens were tested for RSV at the National Influenza Centre (NIC) using standardized molecular diagnostics that had been validated by an External Quality Assurance program. The WHO FluMart data platform was adapted to receive case-based RSV data and visualize interactive visualization outputs.
RESULTS: Laboratory standards for detecting RSV by RT-PCR were developed. A review assessed the feasibility and the low incremental costs for RSV surveillance. Several challenges were addressed related to case definitions, sampling strategies, the need to focus surveillance on young children, and the data required for burden estimation.
CONCLUSIONS: There was no evidence of any significant adverse impact on the functioning of GISRS which is primarily intended for virologic and epidemiological surveillance of influenza.