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Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) during the COVID-19 pandemic affected respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) circulation worldwide.


To describe, for children aged < 5 years, the 2021 and 2022/23 RSV seasons in Germany.


Through data and 16,754 specimens from outpatient sentinel surveillance, we investigated RSV seasonality, circulating lineages, and affected children’s age distributions in 2021 and 2022/23. Available information about disease severity from hospital surveillance was analysed for patients with RSV-specific diagnosis codes (n = 13,104). Differences between RSV seasons were assessed by chi-squared test and age distributions trends by Mann–Kendall test.


RSV seasonality was irregular in 2021 (weeks 35–50) and 2022/23 (weeks 41–3) compared to pre-COVID-19 2011/12–2019/20 seasons (median weeks 51–12). RSV positivity rates (RSV-PR) were higher in 2021 (40% (522/1,291); p < 0.001) and 2022/23 (30% (299/990); p = 0.005) than in prior seasons (26% (1,430/5,511)). Known globally circulating RSV-A (lineages GA2.3.5 and GA2.3.6b) and RSV-B (lineage GB5.0.5a) strains, respectively, dominated in 2021 and 2022/23. In 2021, RSV-PRs were similar in 1 – < 2, 2 – < 3, 3 – < 4, and 4 – < 5-year-olds. RSV hospitalisation incidence in 2021 (1,114/100,000, p < 0.001) and in 2022/23 (1,034/100,000, p < 0.001) was approximately double that of previous seasons’ average (2014/15–2019/20: 584/100,000). In 2022/23, proportions of RSV patients admitted to intensive care units rose (8.5% (206/2,413)) relative to pre-COVID-19 seasons (6.8% (551/8,114); p = 0.004), as did those needing ventilator support (6.1% (146/2,413) vs 3.8% (310/8,114); p < 0.001).


High RSV-infection risk in 2–4-year-olds in 2021 and increased disease severity in 2022/23 possibly result from lower baseline population immunity, after NPIs diminished exposure to RSV.


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