Hospital acquired infections with respiratory syncytial virus are a major problem. The virus is spread predominantly by infected nasal secretions and we investigated whether we could reduce its incidence by cohorting babies on each ward into designated areas and encouraging staff and parents to wash their hands. We examined the incidence of hospital acquired infection due to respiratory syncytial virus in all children less than 2 years old and in those with congenital heart disease. In 1986-7, before any intervention, 18 (4.2%) of 425 hospitalised children less than 2 years old developed hospital acquired infection due to respiratory syncytial virus. In 1987-8, after intervention, five (0.6%) of 840 children developed hospital acquired infection but there were fewer ward admissions with community acquired infections due to the virus. In 1988-9, when there were more community acquired infections than 1986-7, six (1.1%) of 552 children developed hospital acquired infection. In 1986-7, eight (34.8%) of 23 children less than 2 years old with congenital heart disease developed hospital acquired infection due to respiratory syncytial virus; all eight were among 11 children with congenital heart disease hospitalised for more than 14 days. In 1987-8, one (3.3%) of 30 children with congenital heart disease developed hospital acquired infection due to respiratory syncytial virus and in 1988-9 there was one (2.1%) case out of 47 children with congenital heart disease. Handwashing and cohorting significantly reduce the incidence of nosocomial respiratory syncytial virus infection.
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