Q: What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and how does it affect babies?
A: Respiratory Syncytial Virus is the most common respiratory virus in infants and young children. It infects virtually all infants by the age of two. In most infants, the virus causes symptoms resembling those of the common cold. In infants born prematurely and/or with chronic lung disease, RSV can cause a severe or even life-threatening disease. Prior to the introduction of Synagis, RSV disease resulted each year in over 125,000 hospitalizations. There was a high mortality risk in approximately 2 percent of those infants.
Q: Is RSV contagious?
A: Yes, RSV is highly contagious. Each year, up to 50 percent of infants are infected. The infection can be spread through the air, via coughing and sneezing. Transmission can also occur by touching the respiratory secretions of an infected person, and then rubbing your own eyes, nose, or mouth. RSV can survive for 4-7 hours on surfaces such as cribs and countertops. Transmission may be prevented by standard infection control practices, such as hand washing and proper cleaning.
Q: What are the symptoms of RSV disease?
A: The symptoms of RSV are initially similar to a cold, and can include some or all of the following symptoms:
Other cold-like symptoms
More serious symptoms include:
Q: How often do outbreaks occur?
A: RSV outbreaks occur each year on a fairly predictable schedule that varies from one region to another. In the United States, the RSV "season" usually begins in the Fall, and lasts through Spring.
Q: How is RSV infection treated?
A: It is important to help ensure that the infected infant is able to breathe, drink, eat and sleep comfortably. Your child's doctor may perform tests to help determine the severity of the infection and the need for hospitalization. If your infant gets a severe case of RSV disease, the antiviral medication virazole (brand name Ribavirin®, a registered trademark of ICN) may be useful. Your child's doctor is the best source of information about the treatment of serious RSV disease.
Q: What factors increase the risk of RSV disease?
A: Selected factors that increase the risk of RSV infection (multiple factors further increase risk):
Passive smoke exposure
Birth within six months before onset of RSV season
Day care attendance
Two or more individuals sharing a bedroom
School age siblings
Selected factors that increase RSV disease severity:
Chronic lung disease
Body mass less than 5kg
Congenital heart disease*
Low socioeconomic status
Q: Is there an RSV vaccine available?
A: At this date, there is no RSV vaccine available. However, there is an effective prevention product available. During the RSV season (Fall through Spring), simple monthly injections of Synagis® (palivizumab) provide protection against serious lower respiratory tract infections caused by RSV in infants and children at high risk for RSV disease. Your child's doctor can provide complete information about RSV prevention and Synagis®.
*Note: Synagis® is not indicated for children with congenital heart disease or T-cell immunodeficiency.
Copyright © 2001 MedImmune, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
For more information, visit the RSV Prevention Information Center