Time to Act: protecting our children from RSV
Nearly 12,000 Australian babies are likely to be hospitalised this year, at a cost of nearly $200 million. Yet many parents have not heard of RSV.
It is time to act, put a spotlight on RSV and begin a national conversation.
The average annual costs for Australian children < 5 years admitted to hospital with RSV:
Societal costs (i.e. costs of hospitalisation, productivity loss and out of pocket costs) is estimated to be $193 million.
Direct health care costs (i.e. costs of emergency department visits, ambulance, ward care, intensive care) is estimated to be $159 million.
Indirect costs (i.e. productivity loss and out of pocket costs) is estimated to be $34 million.
Whilst we can reliably estimate how many infants and children are hospitalised but those seeking care in the community remains a mystery. This is largely a result of the lack of clinical drivers for health care professionals to test for RSV and the data systems to enumerate the burden.
Consequently, quantifying the full extent of this burden in Australia is impossible as RSV is significantly underreported, and true incidence data cannot be accurately obtained.
There is hope on the horizon for RSV prevention and management.
We have a proven track record of successful public health management of influenza and COVID-19. We already have the infrastructure in place to better understand and manage RSV. The time to act is now to increase surveillance and improve data collection so that we can build a true picture of the burden of RSV.