JAMA Network published earlier today a study co-authored by Rhode Island Hospital Medical Director of Epidemiology and Infection Control and Brown University Professor of Medicine Leonard A. Mermel, D.O., Sc.M, along with Young June Choe, M.D, Ph.D., Michael A. Smit, M.D., M.S.P.H., both affiliated with Rhode Island Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University at the time of the study, now with Hallym University College of Medicine (South Korea) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, respectively. 

The study assessed the impact of age on the epidemiology of human respiratory viruses in Rhode Island over a 5-year period 2012 through 2016, examining 6,733 respiratory virus cases. The authors confirmed seasonality of human respiratory viral infections as well as important findings in the order of age groups affected. Namely, they found that most human respiratory viruses first occurred each season in the 0-4-year age group before they occurred in older age groups. This included human coronaviruses. The one exception was influenza which was first detected the 18-64-year age group.  

“This publication may have implications regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic. We found that most human respiratory viruses, including human coronaviruses, start in the youngest age groups and then go on to affect older individuals. Thus, as SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, continues to circulate and evolve as a human respiratory virus, it too may eventually sequentially affect youngest age groups followed by older people,” Dr. Mermel said. “Better understanding this relationship will be important in planning for future community mitigation strategies and the impact of day care and school closures on transmission risk.”

Christina Spaight O'Reilly

Senior Public Relations Officer
Rhode Island Hospital