OBJECTIVE:

For children in the United States who are at high risk for severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends administering immunoprophylaxis during the RSV season. We present an approach to using surveillance data to help guide application of AAP recommendations for immunoprophylaxis to local patterns of RSV outbreaks.

METHODS:

We analyzed data from laboratories that report consistently to the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System from 1992 to 2007. Local RSV seasons were defined and an immunoprophylaxis schedule was determined by using the median onset dates from each laboratory during 2002–2007. We applied these dates to 10 preceding years of RSV detection data. We compared how well the 5-year median-based method and a fixed date method were able to match the timing of immunoprophylaxis to the RSV season.

RESULTS:

Nineteen laboratories met our inclusion criteria and generally experienced only 1 RSV outbreak per season. Five years of data gave similar median onset/offset dates and season duration, as did 10 years and 15 years of data. The 5-year median schedule increased the number of seasons that children were protected at the season onset by 15% compared with a fixed start date of November 1 and identified communities that experienced RSV seasons with extended durations.

CONCLUSIONS:

The 5-year median method can be used to characterize timing of RSV seasons and optimally apply the current AAP recommendations for timing of palivizumab prophylaxis to the local community.

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