What Is the Respiratory Syncytial Virus?


Quick Answer

Respiratory syncytial virus is a contagious virus that causes pulmonary diseases, such as pneumonia, or terminal airway infection, and bronchiolitis, or terminal airway inflammation, in toddlers and babies, explains MedicineNet. Adults and older children infected with this virus usually have bad colds that can last between one and two weeks.

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Full Answer

RSV enters the body through the mouth, nose and eyes, and it spreads through direct contact or inhalation of infectious respiratory secretions, such as from sneezing or coughing, explains Mayo Clinic. Older people, infants younger than six months of age, children with impaired immune systems, and adults with asthma or congestive heart failure are more likely to catch RSV.

Symptoms of RSV include a sore throat, runny nose, coughing and fever, states WebMD. Patients should keep their hands clean to prevent the spread of infection. Parents should ensure that their babies receive all their vaccines, and if possible, mothers should breastfeed babies for at least six months after delivery. Breast milk may provide some protection against RSV infection.

To reduce the risk of RSV infection in young children, parents should quit smoking or avoid smoking in the car or house, and they should avoid sharing items like utensils, glasses or cups, advises WebMD. They should also avoid people with upper respiratory infections, and enclosed places with many people, such as movie theaters and child care centers, can spread the disease.

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