Background: This study: (1) describes the viral etiology of respiratory illness by prospectively collecting weekly symptom diaries and nasal swabs from families for 1 year, (2) analyzed data by reported symptoms, virus, age, and family composition, and (3) evaluated the duration of virus detection.
Methods: Twenty-six households (108 individuals) provided concurrent symptom and nasal swab data for 4166 person-weeks. The FilmArray polymerase chain reaction (PCR) platform (BioFire Diagnostics, LLC) was used to detect 16 respiratory viruses. Viral illnesses were defined as ≥1 consecutive weeks with the same virus detected with symptoms reported in ≥1 week.
Results: Participants reported symptoms in 23% and a virus was detected in 26% of person-weeks. Children younger than 5 years reported symptoms more often and were more likely to have a virus detected than older participants (odds ratio [OR] 2.47, 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.08-2.94 and OR 3.96, 95% CI, 3.35-4.70, respectively). Compared with single person households, individuals living with children experienced 3 additional weeks of virus detection. There were 783 viral detection episodes; 440 (56%) associated with symptoms. Coronaviruses, human metapneumovirus, and influenza A detections were usually symptomatic; bocavirus and rhinovirus detections were often asymptomatic. The mean duration of PCR detection was ≤2 weeks for all viruses and detections of ≥3 weeks occurred in 16% of episodes. Younger children had longer durations of PCR detection.
Conclusions: Viral detection is often asymptomatic and occasionally prolonged, especially for bocavirus and rhinovirus. In clinical settings, the interpretation of positive PCR tests, particularly in young children and those who live with them, may be confounded.
Keywords: PCR; children; infectious diseases; respiratory viruses; rhinovirus.
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