Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) Annual Surveillance Report 2020

Commun Dis Intell (2018). 2021 Oct 28:45. doi: 10.33321/cdi.2021.45.59.


For 27 years, national prospective data on selected rare childhood diseases have been collected monthly by the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) from paediatricians and other clinical specialists who report cases in children aged up to 16 years. We report here the annual results of APSU surveillance in 2020 for ten rare communicable diseases and complications of communicable diseases, namely: acute flaccid paralysis (AFP); congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection; neonatal herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection; perinatal exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); paediatric HIV infection; severe complications of seasonal influenza; juvenile onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (JoRRP); congenital rubella syndrome; congenital varicella syndrome; and neonatal varicella infection. We describe the results for each disease in the context of the total period of study, including demographics, clinical characteristics, treatment and short-term outcomes. Despite challenges presented by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020, more than 1,400 paediatricians reported regularly to the APSU and an overall monthly reporting rate of > 90% was achieved. The minimum AFP target of 1 case per 100,000 children aged less than 15 years was achieved and there were few cases of vaccine-preventable diseases (JoRRP, rubella, varicella). However, high cases of congenital CMV, neonatal HSV and perinatal exposure to HIV persist. There were no severe complications of seasonal influenza reported for the first time in 13 years. This is consistent with other surveillance data reporting a decline of influenza and other communicable diseases in 2020, and likely reflects the wider effects of public health measures to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the Australian community.

Keywords: Australia; child; communicable disease; public health surveillance; rare disease.

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Female
  • HIV Infections*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2