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Respiratory Syncytial Virus by Dzenana Kozlicic

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Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, is a common respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. It is predominantly present in winter months. RSV infections may lead to serious health complications in infants, young children, and older adults. It is also the most common cause of bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. RSV is highly contagious and is not to be taken lightly.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus infections in infants represent a drastic change in health status that may lead to hospitalization. Premature infants, due to interrupted lung development, altered airway development, and decreased maternally transmitted antibody levels, are at an increased risk for hospitalization. At two years of age, almost all children will have had the RSV infection. In most children or infants, symptoms will onset within four to six days after being exposed to the virus.

Usual symptoms associated with an RSV infection include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever. A person infected with RSV is usually contagious for up to eight days. However, people with compromised immune systems and high-risk infants could be contagious for up to four weeks. The virus is spread through direct contact as well as indirect contact such as nasal secretions or droplets.

Although there is no specific treatment for RSV, there are preventive measures that can be taken. Frequent hand washing as well as avoiding contact with sick people are a few simple steps one can take to avoid infection. A monoclonal antibody called palivizumab can be administered to infants who are at high risk for infection. This drug will not cure RSV or treat the infection; it will simply prevent the virus from becoming more severe. Having no cure or specific treatment, Respiratory Syncytial Virus can compromise the health of infants, young children, and even older adults. The best protection one has is prevention by practicing good hand hygiene as well as common sense.
Bolyard, Dawn. “Respiratory Syncytial Virus.” Nurse Currents 5.1 (2011): 1-15. Print.

“CDC – RSV: Homepage.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <>.
“RSV.” School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins – Home. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <>.


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