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Acute respiratory infections (ARIs)

Acute respiratory infections (ARIs)

Last update: 2022-05-06

Key facts


  • Coughing, sneezing or close personal contact (infected droplets in the air are breathed in by
  • another person)
  • Direct contact with infected saliva or nose mucous


  • Wide range of symptoms.
  • Look for fever, cough and difficulty breathing.


  • Identify sick people before they spread the disease to others
  • Improve the nutritional situation, especially of children
  • Handwash with soap
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life
  • Reduce overcrowding in shelters
  • Improve ventilation in shelters
  • Coughing etiquette (cough into sleeve, handkerchief or tissue, NOT the hand)
  • Social mobilization and behaviour change communication

Vulnerable people

  • Any person in the community can get respiratory infections
  • Children up to five years old, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at
  • highest risk of severe illness
  • Displaced populations and those who live in overcrowded environments

If an epidemic occurs

  • Encourage handwashing
  • Detect serious cases and refer them to health facilities
  • Isolate sick people (separate them from healthy people)
  • Promote coughing etiquette (cough into sleeve, handkerchief or tissue, NOT the hand)
  • Use personal protection (eg face mask)
  • Reduce overcrowding and improve ventilation in shelters
  • Promote exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life
  • Increase social mobilization and behaviour change communication
  • Check the nutritional status of children under five and give nutritional support to those who are malnourished or sick

Community-based assessment - questions

Make a map of the community and mark the information you gather on the map. Record other details.

  • When did people start to fall sick with respiratory infections?
  • How many people have fallen sick with respiratory infections? Where?
  • How many people have died? Where?
  • How many people live in the affected community or area? How many children under five years of age live in the area?
  • Who and where are the vulnerable people?
  • Are children under five most affected? Or are other age groups, occupations, etc., more affected?
  • Are children in the affected community generally well nourished?
  • Do people always have enough food?
  • How common is breastfeeding?
  • Where are the local health facilities and services? (Include traditional and community carers.)
  • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about caring for and feeding sick people? When babies and infants are sick, do women continue to breastfeed them?
  • Is a social mobilization or health promotion programme in place?
  • Which sources of information do people use most?
  • Are rumours or is misinformation about the disease spreading in the community?