Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes illnesses among all age groups and presents a burden to healthcare services. To better understand the epidemiology and seasonality of RSV in different geographical areas, the World Health Organization (WHO) coordinated a pilot initiative to access the feasibility of establishing RSV surveillance using the existing Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) platform.
To describe and compare RSV and influenza seasonality in countries in the northern andsouthern temperate, and tropics during the period January 2017 to April 2019.
Fourteen countries in six WHO regions participating in the GISRS were invited for the pilot. Hospitalized patients presenting with severe acute respiratory illness (SARI), SARI without fever and outpatients presenting with acute respiratory illness (ARI) were enrolled from January 2017 to April 2019. The expected minimum sample size was 20 samples per week, year-round, per country. Real-time RT-PCR was used to detect RSV and influenza viruses. Results were uploaded to the WHO FluMart platform.
Annual seasonality of RSV was observed in all countries, which overlapped to a large extent with the influenza activity. In countries, in temperate regions RSV peaked in the autumn/winter months. In Egypt, a subtropical country, RSV activity peaked in the cooler season. In the tropical regions, RSV peaked during the rainy seasons.
Early findings from the WHO RSV surveillance pilot based on the GISRS suggest annual seasonal patterns for of RSV circulation that overlap with influenza. RSV surveillance needs to be continued for several more seasons to establish seasonality patterns to inform prevention and control strategies.

© 2020 The Authors. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.