Research Article

Respiratory syncytial virus infection in north-east England.

Br Med J 1976; 2 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.2.6044.1095 (Published 06 November 1976) Cite this as: Br Med J 1976;2:1095
  1. D G Sims,
  2. M A Downham,
  3. J McQuillin,
  4. P S Gardner

    Abstract

    During a period covering four winter epidemics 987 respiratory syncytial (RS) virus infections were identified in the children's wards that served a total population of about 875 000 in north-east England. The incidence of admission to hospital with RS virus infection tended to be twice as high among children in Tyneside as that among children from the rest of the catchment area. The risk of hospital admission with RS virus infection in the first year of life for city children was about 1 in 50. The risk tended to be increased when there was a high proportion of children in the population, overcrowded housing, and unemployment. There was no clear relation between climatic changes and the onset or progress of epidemics. Thirteen deaths associated with RS virus infection were identified, four of them sudden and unexpected at home, and nine of them in children with congenital or acquired abnormalities. Twelve children were admitted twice with distinct RS virus infections; the relative severity of their two illnesses depended on age. Hospital cross-infection accounted for 60 of the 987 illnesses. Large families and overcrowding among poorer families seem to lead to a higher incidence of RS virus infection, and measures to reduce overcrowding and improve housing should help to reduce the spread of infection. Breast-feeding also protects infants from infection, but further information is needed to pinpoint the infants at greater risk and how they may best be protected.