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Well-established influenza surveillance systems (ISS) can be used for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) surveillance. In Portugal, RSV cases are detected through the ISS using the European Union (EU) influenza-like illness (ILI) case definition.


To investigate clinical predictors for RSV infection and how three case definitions (EU ILI, a modified EU acute respiratory infection, and one respiratory symptom) performed in detecting RSV infections in Portugal.


This observational retrospective study used epidemiological and laboratory surveillance data (October 2010–May 2018). Associations between clinical characteristics and RSV detection were analysed using logistic regression. Accuracy of case definitions was assessed through sensitivity, specificity, and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC). A 0.05 significance level was accepted.


The study involved 6,523 persons, including 190 (2.9%) RSV cases. Among 183 cases with age information, RSV infection was significantly more frequent among individuals < 5 years (n = 23; 12.6%) and ≥ 65 years (n = 45; 24.6%) compared with other age groups (p < 0.0001). Cough (odds ratio (OR): 2.4; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.2–6.5) was the best RSV-infection predictor considering all age groups, while shortness of breath was particularly associated with RSV-positivity among ≤ 14 year olds (OR: 6.7; 95% CI: 2.6–17.4 for 0–4 year olds and OR: 6.7; 95% CI: 1.5–28.8 for 5–14 year olds). Systemic symptoms were significantly associated with RSV-negative and influenza-positive cases. None of the case definitions were suitable to detect RSV infections (AUC = 0.51).


To avoid underestimating the RSV disease burden, RSV surveillance within the Portuguese sentinel ISS would require a more sensitive case definition than ILI and, even a different case definition according to age.


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