Seasonal respiratory pathogens


The activity of a number of respiratory pathogens increases at different times of the year, most at the same time as the influenza season in the autumn and winter months, and others during the spring and summer months. Some of these pathogens include:

  • adenovirus
  • coronavirus
  • human metapneumovirus (hMPV)
  • human parainfluenza virus
  • mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • rhinovirus

These pathogens mostly cause mild upper respiratory symptoms, such as the common cold, but infection can sometimes lead to more severe lower respiratory infections, especially in:

  • young children
  • the elderly
  • those with weakened immune systems

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) mostly affects children under two years of age and can cause bronchiolitis while parainfluenza is a cause of croup in children.

Transmission occurs through droplets and aerosols created by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact with an infected person and through contact with objects or surfaces contaminated with secretions from an infected individual.

Data and surveillance

Laboratory-based surveillance of seasonal respiratory pathogens is undertaken throughout the year to monitor trends and to detect when activity is higher than levels expected for the time of year based on activity in previous seasons.

Throughout the winter season, we'll produce regular reports summarising influenza and other seasonal pathogen activity to inform local and national planning activities.