Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of a number of viruses that causes lung infections. RSV infections can occur at any age with most healthy people recovering in one to two weeks. However, RSV infections can be severe in some individuals, including infants, young children and older adults. Children who wheeze with RSV infections in infancy have an increased risk of developing asthma. RSV infections are quite seasonal. The season varies from year to year, but the infections are most common between December and February.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
RSV infections can cause symptoms similar to a cold, such as coughing, runny nose, sneezing, fever and loss of appetite. RSV can cause acute wheezing illnesses in children (bronchiolitis), particularly in children less than 2 years of age. In babies, the only symptoms of infection may be irritability, decreased activity and trouble breathing.
Some children are at particularly high risk for developing more severe RSV illnesses. These include infants with chronic medical conditions affecting the lungs, heart or immune system, babies under 4 months of age and babies born prematurely.
Several different laboratory tests are available to diagnose an RSV infection.
Treatment & Management
There is no specific treatment for RSV infections.
Children with bronchiolitis may require hospitalization if breathing becomes labored. In most cases, even for those requiring hospitalization, recovery usually occurs in about one to two weeks.
High risk infants can be treated with a neutralizing antibody to RSV (palivizumab or Synagis®) to reduce the risk of severe RSV illnesses.
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