Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

RSV A/B, also known as respiratory syncytial virus, is the virus that causes respiratory tract disease, especially in children, and pneumonia in elderly age groups during the winter months. RSV is spread by contact with droplets (coughing, sneezing, or kissing), or by touching the eyes, nose, or mouth after touching virus-contaminated surfaces. On solid items like tables and crib rails, RSV can persist for hours. The virus typically occupies a shorter time on soft surfaces such as tissues and hands. Children are often exposed to RSV outside of the home, at school, or daycare. They can then transmit the virus to other members of the family.

RSV shows similar signs as influenza and COVID-19 symptoms, such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. The disease can cause lung infections in children, the elderly, and immunocompromised people. Although the course of RSV disease, which has no specific treatment, varies according to the patient, it usually goes away on its own within a week or two.

What Is RSV?

RSV can cause epidemics all over the world, usually in winter. It is an RNA virus that can affect all respiratory tracts, including the nose, throat, and lungs. Despite the immunity to the post-infection disease, the possibility of recurrence of the infection is high. RSV is also an important and often undiagnosed cause of lower respiratory tract infection in elderly and immunocompromised patients. The virus is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) in children younger than one year, and almost all children have the disease by the age of two. RSV may result in pneumonia and death. Babies younger than six months, children and adults with chronic lung disease (bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis), babies born before 35 weeks of gestation, babies with congenital heart disease, children, leukemia and severe combined immunodeficiency patients, and the elderly living in nursing homes constitute the patient group in which the disease can progress more severely and fatally.

Whar Are The Symptoms of RSV Infection?

The clinical manifestations of RSV infection vary with age and the individual’s immune status. Like other respiratory viruses, symptoms of RSV infection often include runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever, decreased appetite, and wheezing. Symptoms usually occur in phases. In very young infants, restlessness, decreased activity, feeding, and breathing troubles may occur as the only symptoms. While older children and adults often have typical symptoms of upper respiratory disease, lung infections can develop, especially in the elderly or immunocompromised.

How Is RSV Virus Diagnosed?

The most important step in the diagnosis of RSV is to suspect RSV infection. RSV-related bronchiolitis should be suspected in infants with concordant clinical findings and epidemiological features (<1 year of age, lower respiratory tract disease, winter season, known RSV circulation). RSV infection should be suspected if patients over 50 years of age or immunocompromised are hospitalized for lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma exacerbation, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, since many similar viruses have similar clinical findings, clinical findings are insufficient for the diagnosis of RSV infection. Samples obtained from the throat of eligible patients are evaluated for RSV with a rapid antigen test or RT-qPCR method, which can provide results in a short time.

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