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Around the world, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common viral cause of acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) in young children (<5 years old) and ranks among the three most common causes of fatal ALRI in this age group along with Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b. These are the findings of a recent systematic review and meta-analysis (Lancet 2010;375:1545–55; see also Comment; ibid: 1500–2). The data were taken from 36 studies including 19 population-based published studies, seven published studies based on hospital or laboratory data, and ten unpublished population-based studies. The estimate for 2005 was of 33.8 million new episodes of RSV-associated ALRI in children under the age of 5 years (mainly infants) worldwide (22% of all episodes of ALRI in the under-5 age group). At least 10% of these episodes (3.4 million) were severe, needing hospital admission and between 66000 and 199000 children died. Almost all of these deaths (99%) occurred in developing countries. The global burden of RSV is rising and the rise affects developing countries disproportionately. It is the only one of the three main respiratory killers against which there is no vaccine.

Information technology may help to reduce medication errors in hospitals. Computerised physician-order entry, for example, reduced serious medication errors by more than half …

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