Significant impact of nationwide SARS-CoV-2 lockdown measures on the circulation of other respiratory virus infections in Austria

J Clin Virol. 2021 Apr;137:104795. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2021.104795. Epub 2021 Mar 16.


Background: Since the worldwide spread of SARS-CoV-2, different European countries reacted with temporary national lockdowns with the aim to limit the virus transmission in the population. Also Austria started a lockdown of public life in March 2020.

Objectives: In this study we investigated whether the circulation of different respiratory virus infections in Austria, as assessed by the established respiratory virus surveillance system, is affected by these measures as well and may reflect the success of the lockdown in limiting respiratory virus transmission.

Study design: Sentinel data obtained for influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus and rhinovirus cases were analyzed and compared between the season 2019/2020 and the five previous seasons.

Results: We observed a rapid and statistically significant reduction of cumulative cases for all these viruses within short time after the lockdown in March 2020, compared to previous seasons (each p < 0.001). Also, sentinel screening for SARS-CoV-2 infections was performed and a decrease of SARS-CoV-2 was seen after the lockdown. While for the seasonally occurring viruses as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus or human metapneumovirus the lockdown led to the end of the annual epidemics, a re-increase of rhinovirus infections was observed after liberalization of numerous lockdown measures.

Conclusions: Our data provide evidence that occurrence of different respiratory virus infections reflect not only the efficiency of lockdown measures taken against SARS-CoV-2 but it shows also the effects of lockdown releases on the transmission of respiratory viruses.

Keywords: COVID19 lockdown; Lockdown; Lockdown impact; Respiratory viruses; SARS-CoV-2.

MeSH terms

  • Austria / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • Communicable Disease Control*
  • Epidemics
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Metapneumovirus / isolation & purification
  • Orthomyxoviridae / isolation & purification
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / transmission
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification
  • Seasons
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Virus Diseases / prevention & control
  • Virus Diseases / transmission
  • Virus Diseases / virology