In an article published in Acta Médica Portuguesa, the scientific journal of the Order of Doctors, the researchers list several recommendations for preventing infection with this virus, which affects nine out of ten children up to the age of 2 and is the main cause of hospitalisations up to the age of 12 months.

The experts from the working group “RSV Think Tank – inspiring change”, which involves doctors and experts in Health Economics, point out the absence of an adequate prevention strategy against the respiratory syncytial virus in Portugal and highlight the 10 most important actions to be taken.

In the area of literacy, the group suggests specialised training in schools and daycare centers for educators and teachers on respiratory infections and the development of information brochures about the virus to hand out to parents during consultations.

The researchers also recommend updating the “Child and Youth Health Bulletin”, adding specific discussion topics for each age group on respiratory infections, as well as creating multidisciplinary teams involving primary and secondary care, local authorities, and schools to work on the area of health promotion.

“There are multiple approaches that can be implemented here and that contribute precisely to reducing the burden of disease caused by respiratory syncytial virus infection”, Public Health doctor Ricardo Mexia explained to Lusa.

The specialist, who is also president of the Lumiar parish council, also highlighted the importance of involving local authorities in the measures to be taken.

“Increasingly, local authorities have to assume a relevant role (..) in the health of populations, not necessarily in terms of provision, but clearly in terms of finding the best solutions to provide people with the best health choices”, he said.

Regarding pharmacological measures, they suggest that an “effective preventive method for all children” be implemented.

Asked whether the Directorate-General for Health should include, next winter, the vaccine against this virus in the National Vaccination Program, Ricardo Mexia considered that this is a matter that “has to be very well considered”, as it entails costs, but stressed: “We already know that there is evidence [of vaccination] regarding the reduction in incidence”.

He gave an example of the case of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, which introduced this vaccination last year.

In the region, where 96.9% of babies born during the period of greatest virus activity and 93.7% of those born in the pre-season are already vaccinated, vaccination coverage led to a 67% reduction in the number of babies hospitalized.