Respiratory syncytial virus usually (RSV) infects the breathing passages and lungs in small children and infants. Adults can also be affected by RSV. Unless they have an impaired immune system, adults have usually the immunity to fight off RSV. However, young children and infants have not yet built up enough immunity so the condition may worsen and lead to other illnesses.
Causes of RSV
Several different viruses are known to cause RSV so the body does not gain immunity to the virus. Similar to the flu, the virus continually changes and the body often has difficulties keeping up with those changes.
The symptoms of RSV in children and adults are usually very similar to cold symptoms. Children may experience a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and loss of appetite.
Is RSV contagious?
RSV is passed from one person to another via body fluids, typically fluid from the mouth and nose. The virus lives on surfaces outside the body, so a child can sneeze on a toy and another child can be infected by touching the toy. It is estimated that most children will be infected with RSV before they turn 2, but some cases may not be diagnosed as RSV.
How to prevent spreading RSV?
If a child is diagnosed with RSV, they should not be allowed to come in contact with other children. Wash your hands every time you come in contact with your child and teach your child to sneeze into tissues, whenever possible. Children who fall into the high-risk category for an RSV infection, may be given monthly injections of a weakened form of the virus to raise immunity. The injections only provide short-term protection, so children may be required to take injections every year until they no longer fall into the high-risk category.
Treatments for RSV
Most cases of RSV are mild enough that the natural immune response wipes out the virus. If a child is infected and the conditions worsens, hospitalization may be suggested. There are no medications to treat the virus directly, but the child can be monitored for fever and other symptoms in the hospital and receive fluids to prevent dehydration.
Home treatments for RSV include over the counter fever-reducing medication. Medications with aspirin should be avoided, but children can develop Reye's Syndrome from taking aspirin-based medications. Mucus may build up in the nose. Blowing or nasal aspiration may be needed to remove excess mucus build-up.
RSV Infection and pregnancy
because of immunologic changes during pregnancy to allow for fetal tolerance, pregnant women are generally more susceptible to viral infections, such as influenza (the flu). In addition to maternal complications, including hospitalization, cardiorespiratory complications, and death, maternal flu infection is associated with an increased incidence of spontaneous abortion, fetal death, preterm birth, and low-birthweight infants. Consequently, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends vaccination with inactivated influenza virus for all women who will be pregnant or postpartum during influenza season. However, little has been documented on the incidence and effects of maternal RSV infection during pregnancy on mother or infant. Only recently was RSV recognized as a key pathogen in respiratory infections afflicting elderly and immunocompromised adults; the estimated disease incidence was similar to that of nonpandemic influenza. RSV during pregnancy is an uncommon cause of respiratory problems, It is likely that RSV is an important, yet unrecognized, pathogen in pregnancy. Here is a report of 3 cases of RSV in pregnancy.