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About the Respiratory Infections Study

Today, the incidence of severe influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in children in Norway is unknown. The purpose of this study is to find out how influenza, RSV and whooping cough (pertussis) infections affect young and older children treated in hospitals in Norway. The study will also estimate the health and societal costs of these diseases in children. In addition, the study will examine the importance of vaccination against influenza and whooping cough.

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Foto: Colourbox.com

How is the study conducted?

The study is a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and five Norwegian hospitals under the direction of the NorEPIS-network (Norwegian Enhanced Paediatric Immunisation Surveillance network).

All children aged 0-18 years who are referred to one of the study hospitals with fever and respiratory or other symptoms are invited to participate. Study participation requires written parental consent. A questionnaire is used to collect relevant health information about the study participants, such as symptoms, severity, and other parameters. Some participants are also followed up with a telephone interview after being discharged from the hospital. A nasopharyngeal sample is taken from each participant, which is tested for various viruses and bacteria at the hospital laboratory. The doctor who examines the child will usually request a nasopharyngeal sample to make a correct diagnosis and the same sample can be used in the study. Samples are sent to the laboratory at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, where they will also be tested for several infectious agents.

Links to other registries

The study compiles data from questionnaires and test results with data from several other sources (Norwegian Patient Registry, Norwegian Immunisation Registry (SYSVAK), Medical Birth Registry, Norwegian Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases (MSIS), Control and Payment of Health Reimbursement (KUHR), Norwegian Prescription Database and Statistics Norway) to examine patients' use of health services, medicines and vaccines, vaccine efficacy, risk factors and possible complications from these infections.

Data protection

The samples collected in the study are stored in a biobank at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The collected data are stored in an access-controlled and password-protected database, and only de-identified data are used in the analyses. At the end of the project, all data and samples are anonymised so study participants cannot be identified when the results are published. The estimated project end date is 31.12.2024.

International partners

The study is collaborating with a major European study (Pertinent- Pertussis in Infants European Network) to measure the disease burden and incidence of pertussis in Europe. 

Funding and approval

The study is funded by the Research Council of Norway, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The project leader is Dr. Elmira Flem at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The project is approved by the Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics.

Publication of results

Results from the study will be published in scientific journals and on the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s website.


  1. Bøås H, Vázquez Fernández L, Bekkevold T, Rojahn AE, Bakken Kran AM, Størdal K, Molvig Debes S, Døllner D, Nordbø SA, Barstad B, Haarr E, Nakstad B,  Leegaard TM, Flem E. Acute Respiratory Illness In Children: A New Hospital Surveillance System in Norway. 35th  annual meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases, Madrid, Spain May 23-27, 2017 (poster).
  2. Merdrignac L, Tozzi AE, Belchior E, Jané M,  Krizova P, García Cenoz M, Cotter S, Flem E, Pandolfi E, Guillot S, Acosta L, Fabianova K, Díaz González J, O’Sullivan N, Bøås H, AïtBelghiti F, Valero-Rello A, Zavadilova J, Navascués A, Murphy J, Bekkevold T, Muñoz-Almagro C, Bacci S, Pastore Celentano L, Moren A and PERTINENT group. Pilot Season of Pertinent, A Novel Sentinal System to Measure the Burden of Pertussis in Hospitalised Infants in Eu/Eea. 35th annual meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases, Madrid, Spain May 23-27, 2017 (poster).

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a bacterial respiratory infection that can cause serious illness in infants and is characterised by a prolonged and severe cough, paroxysms of cough and vomiting after coughing fits.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease and has become more common among older children since 1997. The pertussis vaccine was introduced in the Norwegian Childhood Immunisation Programme in 1952.

What are influenza and RSV?

Influenza and RSV are two different viruses that can cause acute respiratory illness in children. Both viruses affect all age groups and both infections are very common among children. However, some children may become seriously ill and must be admitted to hospital.

In Norway, vaccination against seasonal influenza is recommended for children at high risk of becoming seriously ill if they are infected.  

Several vaccines against RSV are currently under development which in the future can protect young children from this infection.