Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a viral infection that impacts the respiratory system. The severity of RSV depends upon your age, general health, and underlying or chronic medical conditions. Most people have contracted RSV by the age of two with few complications. RSV can cause symptoms as mild as those of a cold or become life threatening in more serious cases. Learn more about the causes and symptoms of RSV here.
Who is at risk for RSV?
Anyone who comes in contact with RSV may contract the virus. However, certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of becoming infected and experiencing complications.
Most RSV infections occur during colder months during the fall, winter, and spring. Children, especially those who attend school or childcare (or have siblings who do) are at high risk for contracting RSV. Also, infants and children who are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke or pollution are at higher risk.
Certain populations are more likely to experience life-threatening RSV infections, which often require hospitalization. These populations include those with weak immune systems (including HIV and AIDS patients), have chronic lung or heart conditions, or are undergoing chemotherapy or transplant treatments. Infants under age one are especially at high risk, particularly those born prematurely or have congenital heart or lung disease.
What are the complications from an RSV infection?
Severe complications, although infrequent, can occur from an RSV infection. Some patients are hospitalized to allow doctors to administer intravenous fluids and monitor breathing. Those with RSV are at higher risk of developing bronchitis or pneumonia, as well as ear infections. These conditions can be quite serious for the really young, older adults, and those in poor health.
Those who have experienced severe RSV complications are more likely to develop asthma and may experience recurring respiratory infections over their lifetime. This is particularly true for those who have chronic heart or lung conditions.
What are the treatments for RSV?
A doctor will determine whether an individual has an RSV infection by listening to the lungs for abnormal sounds. X-rays, blood tests, and breathing tests may also be used to check for the virus. If it is determined that RSV is present, there are several methods for treatments.
Often RSV patients can treat themselves at home with rest and fluids. The doctor may also suggest over-the-counter medications to reduce the severity of symptoms (like fever) or antibiotics if a bacterial infection has occurred. Severe cases may require the use of a nebulizer or anti-viral medications. Hospital care is required in the most serious RSV cases.
Female RSV Study
Jean Brown Research is conducting a clinical research study for an investigational RSV vaccine. Participants who are selected for the study will receive a no-cost RSV vaccination, study-related health care, and up to $650 in compensation for time and travel.
To qualify for the study, participants must be female, between 18 and 35 years of age, and healthy. Visit Jean Brown Research’s Female Respiratory Syncytial Virus Study page.