Surveillance plan formed for community-acquired RSV

A national tracking and notification system to monitor the incidence of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) during community outbreaks has been formed through a hospital-pharmaceutical partnership, officials announced.

A common respiratory infection that results in some 80,000 infant hospitalizations and 5,000 infant deaths annually in the United States, RSV also has proved to be a troublesome nosocomial pathogen linked to seasonal outbreaks.

The RSV Early Notice Fax Network will be conducted by North Shore University Hospital at the New York University Medical College in Manhasset, NY. The surveillance program will be funded by a firm in the same city -- ICN Pharmaceuticals.

Plans call for the network to monitor seasonal RSV infections in 72 cities throughout the United States, faxing out alerts if case counts suggest a community outbreak. Though it varies by region from year to year, RSV season traditionally runs from November to April. The surveillance program will gather weekly data from hospital virology laboratories and private outpatient laboratories in each monitored city. As the number of RSV cases begins to rise in each community, advisories will be faxed to participating medical facilities and health departments.

In a related matter that underscores the risk of RSV infection in adults, the virus was found to be a surprising source of community-acquired pneumonia in a study presented in San Francisco last September at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 53 (4.4%) of 1,195 patients admitted for pneumonia to two Ohio hospitals were infected with RSV. The clinical features of the infected patients were typical for RSV disease, but none of the patients were initially diagnosed with RSV infection. Since RSV infections may be severe or fatal in immunocompromised or elderly patients, the virus is a known nosocomial pathogen, and early treatment may be efficacious. RSV testing should be considered for adult patients admitted with lower respiratory tract infections between November and April, the CDC recommended. *