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Respiratory syncytial virus infection: Clinical features and diagnosis

Authors
Frederick E Barr, MD
Barney S Graham, MD, PhD
Section Editors
Morven S Edwards, MD
Gregory Redding, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD

INTRODUCTION

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes acute respiratory tract illness in persons of all ages. The clinical manifestations vary with age, health status, and whether the infection is primary or secondary.

The epidemiology, microbiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of RSV infection will be presented here. The treatment and prevention of RSV infection and the treatment of bronchiolitis are discussed separately. (See "Respiratory syncytial virus infection: Treatment" and "Respiratory syncytial virus infection: Prevention" and "Bronchiolitis in infants and children: Treatment; outcome; and prevention".)

EPIDEMIOLOGY

Seasonality — RSV causes seasonal outbreaks throughout the world. In the northern hemisphere, these usually occur from November to April, with a peak in January or February [1,2]. In the southern hemisphere, wintertime epidemics occur from May to September, with a peak in May, June, or July. In tropical and semitropical climates, the seasonal outbreaks usually are associated with the rainy season. The epidemic peaks are not as sharp as in temperate climates, and in some settings RSV can be isolated in as many as eight months of the year [3-6].

Morbidity — RSV causes acute respiratory tract illness in persons of all ages. Almost all children are infected by two years of age, and reinfection is common [7].

In children — RSV is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) in children younger than one year [2]. Each year in the United States, it is associated with an estimated 132,000 to 172,000 pediatric hospitalizations among children younger than five years and is increasing in frequency [8,9]. Although the rate of hospitalization is greatest in children younger than three months of age, about 50 percent of total hospitalizations in the under five age group occur in children older than six months. Globally, it is estimated that RSV causes about 34 million episodes of acute lower respiratory infections in children younger than five years, resulting in about 3.4 million hospitalizations per year [10].

                          

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Literature review current through: Nov 2016. | This topic last updated: Thu Aug 04 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2016.
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