Banner Health Services  



Kris Korte is the Director of Infection Control at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center .

Question:  What is RSV?  

Answer:Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV is a virus that causes acute respiratory illness in people of any age.  It occurs as a yearly epidemic during the winter and early spring and infects just about all children sometime in the first 3 years of life.

Question: What are the symptoms?  

Answer: In infants and young children, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia.  Bronchiolitis is characterized by severe coughing, wheezing and respiratory distress.  Older children and adults infected with RSV usually have a minor cold or upper respiratory tract illness, occasionally with bronchitis, and can transmit the infection to others.  Coughing and sneezing are common methods of transmission.

Question:  How is RSV diagnosed?  

Answer: Diagnosis of RSV infection is most frequently made by isolating the virus from a swab of nasopharyngeal secretions, frequently combined with a throat swab.

Question:  Is RSV treatable?  

Answer: For children with mild disease, no specific treatment is necessary other than the treatment of symptoms.  Children with severe disease may require oxygen therapy and sometimes mechanical ventilation.  Ribavirin aerosol may be used in the treatment of some patients with severe disease.

Question:  Does RSV have any long-term effects?  

Answer: Re-infection throughout life is common.  A prior history of having RSV does not prevent you from contracting the virus again.  The severity of disease decreases with subsequent infections and the frequency of re-infection decreases with age.  Long-term sequelae can include hyperactive airway disease and childhood asthma.

Question:  How can RSV be prevented?  

Answer: Currently there is no RSV vaccine available.  Prevention efforts should focus on good infection control practices, especially on frequent hand-washing, since children are frequently infectious before symptoms appear.  Disposal of tissues used to clean nasal secretions, routine cleaning and disinfection of toys and environmental surfaces, and not sharing items such as cups, glasses, and utensils with persons who have RSV illness are important in preventing the spread of disease.  RSV can survive on environmental surfaces for several hours and for 30 minutes or more on hands.

Page Last Modified: 02/22/2010
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