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Red Book Online marks 20 years as must-have pediatric infectious diseases resource

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Red Book Online (RBO) was launched quietly in April 2003 as an open access “beta version” of the full text of the 2000 Red Book. Twenty years later, it has become a must-have resource for pediatric health care professionals.

RBO deftly shares the tradition of excellence as the ‘latest and greatest’ definitive source for child health professionals to get all the answers they need at point-of-care to treat, manage and prevent infectious diseases in children, using the best available evidence gathered by the AAP,” said David W. Kimberlin, M.D., FAAP, Red Book editor since 2012.

An AAP member benefit, RBO offers informed, updated and timely online access to the complete text of the Red Book, a visual library of more than 2,700 images, information on infectious disease outbreaks, immunization schedules, vaccine status tables and more at https://publications.aap.org/redbook.

Exponential growth

Developed by the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases (COID), the Red Book was launched in 1938. It consisted of a mere eight pages and covered a mix of 18 topics, including the common cold, epidemic meningitis, scarlet fever, measles, pertussis and variola.

The 2021 Red Book is almost 1,200 pages and includes contributions from hundreds of experienced practitioners and scientists.

“The Red Book has set the standard of quality, authority and value for 85 years that no competitive resource can match,” said Larry K. Pickering, M.D., FAAP, editor of the 1997-2009 editions. “With incomparable breadth and depth of content, the Red Book always brings vital practice-focused information about multiple infectious diseases topics like immunizations, school health, blood safety, sexually transmitted infections, vaccine hesitancy, and antimicrobial therapy and stewardship.”

Off to the races

With Red Book being published every three years, the impetus for RBO was born. Red Book was the first AAP book to go online.

After it was launched in April 2003, RBO became a subscription resource with the addition of the 2003 Red Book and the birth of the Visual Library. It quickly became the COID’s digital home, updating Red Book chapters and infectious diseases content between editions.

RBO has been highly regarded in the medical and publishing industries as a ‘pioneer’— one of the earliest and most innovative online medical reference works,” said COID member Kristina K. Bryant, M.D., FAAP.

In 2008, RBO was awarded a Silver World Wide Web Health Award in the Health Promotion/Disease & Injury Prevention Information category by the Health Information Resource Center.

In 2012, major enhancements included image hyperlinks embedded in the online text and the mobile download as a core part of RBO. Shortly thereafter, content within Red Book chapters began to be revised, updated and posted on RBO between publication years, as the AAP published policies, clinical practice guidelines and technical reports.

Myriad features

During the ensuing decade, RBO has continued to take advantage of the digital world, polishing and expanding a variety of online features. Examples include:

  • Outbreaks. Information and resource links are provided regarding current infectious disease outbreaks (e.g., COVID-19, Listeria, mpox, acute flaccid myelitis) that affect the pediatric population and have been identified in multiple U.S. states.
  • Systems-based Treatment Table. This unique feature assists pediatricians in using antibiotic agents appropriately (and only when needed) for many “bread-and-butter” pediatric conditions.
  • Updates. New recommendations from the AAP or other national and international organizations (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], National Institutes of Health, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and World Health Organization) are integrated into RBO. Updates are either written by or reviewed and approved by designated COID members, modifying the current text of the Red Book.
  • Visual Library. More than 2,700 infectious disease images are available for use in diagnosis and for presentations, including clinical manifestations, disease vectors and etiology. Numerous images have been gathered from leading infectious diseases experts around the country, including key images from the CDC.
  • Vaccine Status Tables. Three comprehensive tables list the key elements of recently submitted, licensed and recommended vaccines and biologics, all influenza vaccines and advances in SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Links to individual vaccines provide specific information.
  • Influenza resources. COID has compiled a comprehensive list of resources on influenza prevention and treatment in children and adolescents for both health care professionals and the public. This resource page is updated frequently.
  • Webinars. Access is provided to presentations from distinguished experts on important and timely pediatric infectious diseases topics.
  • News. Breaking news related to pediatric infectious diseases and immunizations is posted, including new vaccine recommendations, vaccine or antiviral shortages, product recalls, disease outbreaks, travel notices and more.
  • Errata. RBO is the official home for Red Book errata with detailed information about changes as well as PDF files for reference or printing. New errata are posted on the RBO Errata page and as individual embedded links within the affected Red Book sections. RBO errata are freely accessible to all visitors to the site.

Numerous contributors

Pediatricians and AAP staff share responsibility for creating, supporting and enhancing RBO during the past 20 years. Contributors include Red Book Editors Dr. Pickering and Dr. Kimberlin; Red Book Online Associate Editor Henry H. Bernstein, D.O., M.H.C.M., FAAP (2010-2023); and Visual Red Book Associate Editors Edgar O. Ledbetter, M.D., FAAP, initial primary curator (2000-’09), and H. Cody Meissner, M.D., FAAP (2009-’18). In addition, many Red Book associate editors, COID chairs and groups of AAP staff have worked tirelessly to help make RBO a success.

The AAP recently created a new leadership structure for RBO. Dr. Bryant serves as RBO lead and, with her team, oversees the information on RBO. She reports primarily to the COID chair and vice chair and receives guidance and direction from the Red Book editor.

“COID always welcomes your feedback (at https://www.aap.org/RBOfeedback) on how to continuously advance RBO to best meet your digital infectious diseases needs at point of care,” said COID Chair Sean T. O’Leary, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP. “Here’s to a next wonderful 20 years for RBO.

Dr. Bernstein is associate editor of Red Book Online.

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