Clinical and epidemiological aspects of severe acute respiratory infection: before and during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2022 Aug 5;trac074. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/trac074. Online ahead of print.


Background: Widespread respiratory infections with high morbidity rates caused by respiratory viruses represent a significant global public health problem. Our objective was to describe cases and deaths from severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) in Brazil over the past 8 y as well as changes in the distribution and risk of illness and death from SARI before and in the first year of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic (FYP).

Methods: We performed a descriptive epidemiological study of hospitalized SARI cases and deaths between 2013 and 2020 in Brazil, separated into pre-pandemic (2013 to 2019) and FYP (2020). We estimate the increase in SARI cases and deaths in the FYP as well as the mortality and infection risks attributable to the FYP (MRAP and IRAP, respectively).

Results: In 2020, an excess of 425 054 cases and 109 682 deaths was observed, with a significant increase in the risk of falling ill and dying from SARI, with an IRAP of 200.06 and an MRAP of 51.68 cases per 100 000 inhabitants. The increase in SARI cases and deaths was particularly prominent among patients with COVID-19, the elderly, males, those self-identifying as mixed race and patients with heart disease and diabetes. We conclude that an important increase in morbidity and mortality due to SARI was observed in the FYP. More vulnerable groups and those living in the Southeast, North and Center-West regions of the country suffered the most.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARI; hospitalizations; influenza; respiratory syncytial virus.