Influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, and metapneumovirus are the most common viruses associated with acute lower respiratory infections in young children (<5 years) and older people (≥65 years). A global report of the monthly activity of these viruses is needed to inform public health strategies and programmes for their control.


In this systematic analysis, we compiled data from a systematic literature review of studies published between Jan 1, 2000, and Dec 31, 2017; online datasets; and unpublished research data. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they reported laboratory-confirmed incidence data of human infection of influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, or metapneumovirus, or a combination of these, for at least 12 consecutive months (or 52 weeks equivalent); stable testing practice throughout all years reported; virus results among residents in well-defined geographical locations; and aggregated virus results at least on a monthly basis. Data were extracted through a three-stage process, from which we calculated monthly annual average percentage (AAP) as the relative strength of virus activity. We defined duration of epidemics as the minimum number of months to account for 75% of annual positive samples, with each component month defined as an epidemic month. Furthermore, we modelled monthly AAP of influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus using site-specific temperature and relative humidity for the prediction of local average epidemic months. We also predicted global epidemic months of influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus on a 5° by 5° grid. The systematic review in this study is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42018091628.
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