In recent weeks, the number of young children with an RS virus infection has increased so much that there is an epidemic. “We see this not only in the Netherlands, but also in other countries in and outside Europe, according to recent international research by Nivel and colleagues,” Nivel reported on Thursday.
Postponed due to corona measures
‘This is very remarkable, since an RS virus epidemic actually mainly occurs in winter. Due to the corona measures, hardly any young children with an RS virus infection were admitted to hospital last winter. That is why we now speak of a delayed or delayed RS virus epidemic’, says Nivel.
Based on joint research, Nivel, RIVM and various colleagues from abroad have already predicted that a larger RS virus epidemic could occur in Europe outside the winter. After all, more young children are (simultaneously) susceptible to an RS virus infection.
This summer’s ‘catching up’ will continue into winter
Because young children were barely able to build up protection against a serious RS virus infection last winter, a larger group of young children is susceptible to an RS virus infection. That is why it is predicted that this summer and next autumn and winter there will be a ‘catch up’ of young children with an RS virus infection.
RS virus now also affects more children between 1 and 2 years
Normally, especially children under the age of 1 become seriously ill due to an RS virus infection. But because young children hardly built up any protection last winter, GPs and paediatricians now also see more children who are now slightly older; between 1 and 2 years.
Closing schools has had an inhibitory effect
The closure of schools in times of corona seems to have played an important role in inhibiting the spread of the RS virus. In countries where there has been a delayed RS virus epidemic (in spring or summer) since the COVID-19 pandemic – France, Iceland, Belgium, Australia and South Africa – primary schools and childcare facilities were open just before and during the epidemic . In the Netherlands, we see that the number of patients with an RS virus infection increases from April, after primary schools and childcare were reopened. And since June 24, there has been an official RS virus epidemic in the Netherlands.
About the research
In the Netherlands, we compared the weekly number of RS virus infections in the 2020/21 season with that of previous seasons, based on the Virological weekly diagnostic results collected by the Dutch Working Group on Clinical Virology (NWKV). It contains the reports of approximately 21 hospital laboratories spread across the Netherlands. We have done the same in France, Iceland and the United Kingdom, based on surveillance systems in those countries. In addition, we conducted a literature review to investigate the impact of the corona measures on the activity of the RS virus.