Respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, is a very contagious viral infection in the respiratory system, according to WebMD. The effects of the virus range from mild cold-like symptoms to serious respiratory complications such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis. While anyone can contract RSV, babies are particularly susceptible, especially those in high-risk groups.
RSV outbreaks are most common from fall to spring, notes MedlinePlus. It is the most common cause of respiratory infections in babies and young children. The primary mode of spreading RSV is through the droplets from coughs and sneezes that enter the air. Babies can become infected when they come into contact with those droplets, either from direct airborne exposure, from kissing or touching an infected person, or by coming into contact with a contaminated surface.
The symptoms of RSV generally last for one or two weeks, states WebMD. Potential symptoms include cough with mucus, fever, thick nasal discharge and breathing difficulty. A baby with RSV may also seem more irritable, be less active, or refuse to nurse or take a bottle.
Babies at high risk of contracting RSV include newborns under 10 weeks old, premature infants and babies with medical conditions such as heart issues, lung problems or weakened immune systems, says WebMD. These high-risk groups are more likely to experience severe symptoms or complications. No vaccine exists for RSV, as of 2015, but a drug called palivizumab is sometimes given to high-risk babies during outbreaks of RSV, as a protective medication to reduce serious complications.