While it is known that acute respiratory illness (ARI) is caused by an array of viruses, less is known about co-detections and the resultant comparative symptoms and illness burden. This study examined the co-detections, the distribution of viruses, symptoms, and illness burden associated with ARI between December 2012 and March 2013.
Outpatients with ARI were assayed for presence of 18 viruses using multiplex reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (MRT-PCR) to simultaneously detect multiple viruses.
Among 935 patients, 60% tested positive for a single virus, 9% tested positive for ≥1 virus and 287 (31%) tested negative. Among children (<18 years), the respective distributions were 63%, 14%, and 23%; whereas for younger adults (18-49 years), the distributions were 58%, 8%, and 34% and for older adults (≥50 years) the distributions were 61%, 5%, and 32% (P < 0.001). Co-detections were more common in children than older adults (P = 0.01), and less frequent in households without children (P = 0.003). Most frequently co-detected viruses were coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza A virus. Compared with single viral infections, those with co-detections less frequently reported sore throat (P = 0.01), missed fewer days of school (1.1 vs. 2 days; P = 0.04), or work (2 vs. 3 days; P = 0.03); other measures of illness severity did not vary.
Among outpatients with ARI, 69% of visits were associated with a viral etiology. Co-detections of specific clusters of viruses were observed in 9% of ARI cases particularly in children, were less frequent in households without children, and were less symptomatic (e.g., lower fever) than single infections.