The Health System Burden of RSV in Europe: EHMA’s White Paper

EHMA is pleased to launch a white paper on the health system burden of the Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in Europe. The white paper presents the study findings on the burden of paediatric RSV in hospitals (paediatric general wards and paediatric intensive care units) and the community (primary and emergency care), and the impact of RSV-infection on health systems performance and healthcare resource use over the last three RSV seasons (2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21). The study is based on a survey conducted among 374 HCPs (physicians in hospitals and the community, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals) in 20 European countries, from August 2021 to January 2022.

What is RSV and how does it affect us?

RSV is an urgent and immediate threat to all infants and a significant burden to health systems. Nearly every child is infected by RSV by the age of 2.

Globally, RSV is responsible for 33 million cases annually. It accounts for 63% of acute respiratory tract infections in infants and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants. RSV is also a leading cause of hospitalisations for infants in their first year of life, and responsible for a significant outpatient burden.

Despite these concerning statistics, RSV is chronically underreported, and its burden is widely underappreciated.

The public health impact of RSV

The seasonality of RSV is a strong factor impacting on optimal health system performance. The peak rise in RSV infections and hospitalisation occurs between October to March in Europe. This results in acute pressure on primary care providers, emergency services, and paediatric hospital capacity.

RSV burden is strongly felt as there is no active treatment for the infection. RSV-related disease management is limited to symptomatic relief. No preventive option is available yet, for all infants. This is an unmet medical need.

The EHMA survey

EHMA performed a cross-sectional survey on 380 healthcare professionals (HCPs) in paediatric hospitals and the community, across 20 countries in Europe. The results confirm the burden of paediatric RSV is significant and system-wide and affects all care settings. 89% of survey respondents consider RSV’s disruptive effects is moderate to extreme.

Seasonal outbreaks of RSV and the resultant increased demand for healthcare services lowers levels of patient safety, leads to deteriorated work conditions for healthcare providers, and significant delays and disruptions to care delivery. HCPs across all care-settings ranked increased workload, and high levels of stress and exhaustion, as the foremost impacts of the RSV-associated health system burden.

Most infants are not optimally managed and routinely undergo unnecessary investigations and receive treatments (e.g., antibiotics) of doubtful efficacy for RSV infection. This is an avoidable and unnecessary public health burden.

Following a careful assessment of the burden, impact, and disruption of paediatric RSV infections on the health system in Europe, EHMA has developed five evidence-supported, actionable recommendations geared towards building a better RSV-resilient and RSV-prepared health system, listed below.

  • Broaden the understanding of RSV among caregivers, communities, and clinicians.
  • Maintain infection control measures.
  • Improve and expand diagnostic capability.
  • Standardise the management of RSV infection.
  • Prepare for access to immunisation.

Read the EHMA white paper here.
View the infographic summarising key findings here.

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