Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) Annual Surveillance Report 2021

Commun Dis Intell (2018). 2022 Oct 20:46. doi: 10.33321/cdi.2022.46.66.


The Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) has been conducting surveillance of rare communicable and non-communicable conditions in children since its inception in 1993. In this report, the results are described of surveillance of ten communicable diseases (and complications) for 2021, including the numbers of cases and incidence estimates; demographics; clinical features; and management and short-term outcomes. The included diseases are: acute flaccid paralysis (AFP); congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV); neonatal herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection; paediatric human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; perinatal exposure to HIV; severe complications from influenza; juvenile-onset respiratory papillomatosis (JoRRP); congenital rubella syndrome; congenital varicella syndrome; and neonatal varicella infection. In 2021, cases of JoRRP were reported to the APSU for the first time since 2017, indicating potential gaps in HPV vaccination. AFP surveillance by APSU again contributed to Australia achieving a minimum target incidence of one AFP case per 100,000 children aged < 15 years. There were no cases of children with severe complications of influenza. No cases of varicella or congenital rubella were reported; however, at-risk populations, especially young migrant and refugee women from countries without universal vaccination programs, need to be screened and prioritised for vaccination prior to pregnancy. Cases of perinatal exposure to HIV continue to increase; however, the rate of mother-to-child-transmission remains at low levels due to the use of effective intervention strategies. Case numbers of congenital CMV and neonatal HSV remain steady in the absence of vaccines, prompting the need for greater awareness and education, with recent calls for target screening of at-risk infants for congenital CMV.

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

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Chickenpox* / epidemiology
  • Chickenpox* / prevention & control
  • Communicable Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rubella Syndrome, Congenital*

Supplementary concepts

  • Neonatal herpes
  • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis