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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > RSV Infection
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)

RSV Infection

Alternate Names : Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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
  • premature infants
  • anyone with a weak immune system, or immunodeficiency disorder
  • elderly individuals
  • adults with chronic lung problems, such as a chronic lung disorder called emphysema


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    RSV Infection: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/06/01

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