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Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.
People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.
Almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday.
RSV in Infants and Young Children
RSV can be dangerous for some infants and young children. Each year in the United States, an estimated 58,000-80,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection. Those at greatest risk for severe illness from RSV include
- Premature infants
- Infants, especially those 6 months and younger
- Children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
- Children with weakened immune systems
- Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions
RSV can spread when
- An infected person coughs or sneezes
- You get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth
- You have direct contact with the virus, like kissing the face of a child with RSV
- You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands
People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days and may become contagious a day or two before they start showing signs of illness. However, some infants, and people with weakened immune systems, can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks. Children are often exposed to and infected with RSV outside the home, such as in school or childcare centers. They can then transmit the virus to other members of the family.
RSV can survive for many hours on hard surfaces such as tables and crib rails. It typically lives on soft surfaces such as tissues and hands for shorter amounts of time.
People are typically infected with RSV for the first time as an infant or toddler and nearly all children are infected before their second birthday. However, repeat infections may occur throughout life, and people of any age can be infected. Infections in healthy children and adults are generally less severe than among infants and older adults with certain medical conditions. People at highest risk for severe disease include
- Premature infants
- Young children with congenital (from birth) heart or chronic lung disease
- Young children with compromised (weakened) immune systems due to a medical condition or medical treatment
- Children with neuromuscular disorders
- Adults with compromised immune systems
- Older adults, especially those with underlying heart or lung disease
In the United States and other areas with similar climates, RSV circulation generally starts during fall and peaks in the winter. The timing and severity of RSV circulation in a given community can vary from year to year.
Créditos: Comité científico Covid