Epidemiology of RSV Bronchiolitis Among Young Children in Central New York Before and After the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2023 Dec 1;42(12):1056-1062. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000004101. Epub 2023 Sep 7.


Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis is the leading cause of hospitalizations among infants in the United States. Unpredictability in RSV seasonality has occurred following the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Local surveillance networks can enhance the ability to appropriately time prophylaxis when exposure risk is highest.

Methods: A retrospective, cohort study was conducted to describe the epidemiologic patterns of RSV disease among outpatient, emergency department and inpatient encounters in children <5 years in Central New York before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local data were collected from October 2015 to January 2023 and compared to state-level data. Linear regression models were used to identify clinical and sociodemographic differences before and after the pandemic.

Results: Local variation in RSV seasonality was noted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, however highly atypical circulation patterns appeared in the post-COVID-19 era. Since March 2020, patterns for local and state-defined RSV seasons have remained atypical (local season onset in 2021: week 27 and 2022: week 27; state season onset in 2021: week 31 and 2022: week 38). After adjusting for increases in testing, RSV bronchiolitis cases were not significantly different during pre- and post-pandemic eras. In comparison to the 2021 bronchiolitis season, the 2022 season had a higher proportion of RSV cases despite decreased testing.

Conclusions: Temporal patterns for RSV have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local surveillance networks may be advantageous in trending community-level RSV activity to optimize prophylaxis administration. Changes in RSV testing patterns occurred throughout the study period and should be accounted for when describing infant and childhood RSV disease.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchiolitis* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • United States