Seasonality of acute otitis media and the role of respiratory viral activity in children

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2013 Apr;32(4):314-9. doi: 10.1097/INF.0b013e31827d104e.


Background: Acute otitis media (AOM) occurs as a complication of viral upper respiratory tract infections in young children. AOM and respiratory viruses both display seasonal variation. Our objective was to examine the temporal association between circulating respiratory viruses and the occurrence of pediatric ambulatory care visits for AOM.

Methods: This retrospective study included 9 seasons of respiratory viral activity (2002 to 2010) in Utah. We used Intermountain Healthcare electronic medical records to assess community respiratory viral activity via laboratory-based active surveillance and to identify children <18 years with outpatient visits and International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes for AOM. We assessed the strength of the association between AOM and individual respiratory viruses using interrupted time series analyses.

Results: During the study period, 96,418 respiratory viral tests were performed; 46,460 (48%) were positive. The most commonly identified viruses were respiratory syncytial virus (22%), rhinovirus (8%), influenza (8%), parainfluenza (4%), human metapneumovirus (3%) and adenovirus (3%). AOM was diagnosed during 271,268 ambulatory visits. There were significant associations between peak activity of respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, influenza A and office visits for AOM. Adenovirus, parainfluenza and rhinovirus were not associated with visits for AOM.

Conclusions: Seasonal respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus and influenza activity were temporally associated with increased diagnoses of AOM among children. These findings support the role of individual respiratory viruses in the development AOM. These data also underscore the potential for respiratory viral vaccines to reduce the burden of AOM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Influenza, Human / complications*
  • Male
  • Metapneumovirus / isolation & purification
  • Orthomyxoviridae / isolation & purification
  • Otitis Media / epidemiology*
  • Outpatients
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • Time Factors
  • Utah / epidemiology