Epidemiologic analysis of respiratory viral infections among Singapore military servicemen in 2016

BMC Infect Dis. 2018 Mar 12;18(1):123. doi: 10.1186/s12879-018-3040-x.


Background: Respiratory illnesses have been identified as a significant factor leading to lost training time and morbidity among Singapore military recruits. A surveillance programme has been put in place to determine etiological agents responsible for febrile, as well as afebrile respiratory illnesses in a military camp. The goal of the study is to better understand the epidemiology of these diseases and identify potential countermeasures to protect military recruits against them.

Methods: From Jan 2016 - Jan 2017, a total of 2647 respiratory cases were enrolled into the surveillance programme. The cases were further stratified into Febrile Respiratory Illness (FRI, with body temperature > 37.5 °C) or Acute Respiratory Illness (ARI, with body temperature < 37.5 °C). Nasal washes were collected and tested by multiplex PCR to detect 26 different pathogens.

Results: One thousand ninety five cases (41% of total cases) met the criteria of FRI in which 932 cases (85% of FRI cases) were screened positive for at least one virus. The most common etiological agents for FRI mono-infection cases were Adenovirus E and Rhinovirus. Recruits infected with H3N2 influenza, Influenza B and Adenovirus E viruses were most likely presented as FRI cases. Notably, H3N2 influenza resulted in the greatest rise in body temperature. The remaining 1552 cases (59% of total cases) met the criteria of ARI in which 1198 cases (77% of ARI cases) were screened positive for at least one virus. The most common etiological agent for ARI mono-infection was Rhinovirus. The distribution pattern for dual infections was different for ARI and FRI cases. Maximum number of pathogens detected in a sample was five for both groups.

Conclusion: Previous studies on respiratory diseases in military focused largely on FRI cases. With the expanded surveillance to ARI cases, this study allows unbiased evaluation of the impact of respiratory disease pathogens among recruits in a military environment. The results show that several pathogens have a much bigger role in causing respiratory diseases in this cohort.

Keywords: Febrile respiratory illness; Military recruits; Respiratory pathogens; Surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adenoviridae / genetics
  • Adenoviridae / isolation & purification
  • Body Temperature
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fever / etiology
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype / genetics
  • Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype / isolation & purification
  • Influenza B virus / genetics
  • Influenza B virus / isolation & purification
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Rhinovirus / genetics
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification
  • Singapore / epidemiology


  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral