Alternate Names : Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection
The respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, can cause lung
infections. These infections are usually mild in healthy adults but can be
serious in young children or in people with weak immune systems.
What is going on in the body?
RSV can cause infections in the nose, throat, windpipe, smaller airways called
bronchioles, and the lungs. RSV infection typically causes mild, coldlike
symptoms in adults and older children. In
premature infants or children younger than 1 year, RSV can cause pneumonia or a lower airway infection
called bronchiolitis. RSV can also
cause pneumonia in people with weak immune systems, such as those receiving
chemotherapy for cancer.
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
RSV is highly contagious and is spread from person to person. RSV is spread
through contact with infected secretions from the eyes, nose, and mouth. These
secretions are usually spread to the hands and then to objects that the
contaminated hands touch. When a person touches these objects, he or she may
acquire the infection.
Children younger than 1 year are most commonly affected. This is partially due
to their tendency to place objects in their mouths. Children in day care centers
are at a higher risk of infection than children who do not attend day care. RSV
tends to occur in large outbreaks, called epidemics, which affect many
children. RSV usually occurs between late fall and early spring, with most
cases in the winter.
RSV is a particular risk for:
children younger than 1 year
children with serious heart disorders such as congenital heart disease
children with lung problems, such as
cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder causing the secretion of thick
mucus in the airways
anyone with a weak immune system, or
adults with chronic lung problems, such as a chronic lung disorder called