Background: Each year, a quarter of the children younger than 24 months has respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis. The morbidity among high-risk infants and the possible association with the development of asthma lead to propose preventive measures whose cost-effectiveness relationship is unknown. The present work was aimed at measuring costs of a first attack of bronchiolitis.
Method: For children less than two years visited in the emergency department, direct and indirect costs were measured according to the 'Sécurité Sociale' prices. Associated morbidity, the management of care (inpatient versus outpatient), outpatients' outcome two weeks after the visit, socioeconomic data were recorded.
Results: One hundred eighty three children have been studied. The length of stay for 40 hospitalizations was 7.6 +/- 4.3 days. Direct costs were 37,200 +/- 22,000 FF for inpatients, and 1286 +/- 633 F for outpatients. For 113 outpatients' families, indirect costs were 49 working days lost. The way the child was looked after and the unemployment rate in the study were similar to data provided by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.
Conclusion: Because of the variability of the hospitalization rate from one setting to another, overall costs of the epidemic cannot be evaluated. For the policymaker, the greatest costs come from the outpatient care. Others studies will be necessary to evaluate the price of future preventive measures.