Keeping kids healthy
Q. What is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and how does it affect babies? A. RSV is the most common respiratory virus in infants and young children. It infects virtually all infants by the age of two years. In most infants, the virus causes symptoms resembling those of the common cold. In infants born prematurely or with chronic lung disease, RSV can cause a severe or even life-threatening disease. Each year, RSV disease results in over 125,000 hospitalizations, and about 2 percent of these infants die.
Q. How is RSV transmitted? A. RSV is highly contagious. Each year, up to 50 percent of infants are infected. Transmission occurs by touching an infected person, and then rubbing your own eyes, nose, or mouth. The infection can also be spread through the air, by coughing and sneezing. RSV can survive for four to seven hours on surfaces such as cribs and countertops. Transmission may be prevented by standard infection control practices, such as hand washing.
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. Treatment of severe RSV infection is mostly supportive. It is important to help ensure that the infant is able to breathe, drink, eat and sleep comfortably. Your child's doctor may use a blood test to help determine the severity of the infection and the need for hospitalization. If your infant gets a severe case of RSV disease, the anti-viral medication virazole may be useful. Your child's doctor is the best source of information about the treatment of serious RSV disease.
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 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.