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Respiratory syncytial virus

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VOL: 102, ISSUE: 06, PAGE NO: 25



- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major factor in bronchiolitis and pneumonia in young children, and sporadic acute bronchitis and mild upper respiratory tract infections in adults.



- It produces a variety of symptoms in different areas of the respiratory tract, from the nose to the lungs.



- In more severe cases respiratory syncytial virus can result in respiratory failure.



- RSV is a negative-sense, enveloped RNA virus. The virus causes the formation of giant cells or syncytia.



- It survives only a few hours in the environment and can be easily destroyed with disinfectant.



- RSV is spread via respiratory secretions.



- It results from close contact with infected people or with contaminated objects.



- The virus enters the body through the mucous membranes of the eyes, mouth or nose, sometimes through inhalation of droplets caused by an infected person sneezing or coughing.



- Wheezing.



- Fever.



- Cough.



- Rapid breathing.



- Difficulty breathing.



- Blue lips or fingernails caused by reduced blood oxygen.



- In infants with severe infection there can be abnormal retractions of the muscles between the ribs, due to the effort of drawing breath.



- Infants born prematurely or those with compromised lung, heart or immune systems are at greatest risk of developing serious complications from RSV infection.



- The virus can be identified from fluid obtained from the nose.



- Auscultation can reveal abnormal lung sounds.



- Chest X-ray can show pneumonia or bronchiolitis.



- Arterial blood gas analysis can identify decreased oxygen saturation.



- Mild infections normally resolve without treatment.



- More severe infections may require hospital treatment with oxygen therapy, humidified air, and hydration using intravenous fluids.



- A ventilator may be used to provide respiratory support.



- Bronchodilators can be administered to open the airways of the lungs. In very serious cases antiviral drugs such as ribavirin may be tried.



- Antibiotics are of no use in the treatment of RSV.



- Advise parents to avoid contact with anyone who has a cold or fever.



- Advise parents that kissing an infected baby can spread infection.



- Environmental tobacco smoke inhalation is linked to RSV exacerbation, therefore smoking cessation advice should be given to parents.



- If a child is considered to be at high risk, for example one born before 32 weeks’ gestation, parents should seek medical advice.

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