Fast Five Quiz: Overview of Pediatric Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Asif Noor, MD


March 03, 2022

RSV infection is limited to the respiratory tract. The virus spreads down the respiratory tract occurs through cell-to-cell transfer of the virus along the syncytia from the upper to the lower respiratory tract. The illness begins with upper respiratory signs and symptoms (rhinorrhea, coryza) and progresses over 1-2 days to the lower respiratory tract, characterized by cough, crackles (rales), and decreased oral intake. Fever is commonly seen in cases of bronchiolitis. The incidence of concomitant or secondary serious bacterial infection in association with RSV infection appears to be low (< 1%). Although otitis media may occur in as many as 40% of cases, the majority of these are from RSV infection itself rather than secondary bacterial infection.

According to Gupta and colleagues, infants and children with comorbid conditions (such as history of premature birth, chronic lung disease, congenital heart disease, or primary immunodeficiency) and who have RSV may present with sepsis.

Apnea is a well-known but rare complication of RSV infection. It is primarily observed in premature infants (< 37 weeks) and in those with underlying medical problems. The incidence of apnea is low in otherwise healthy term infants.

Learn more about the pathophysiology of RSV.


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