RSV: What is it and who is at risk?

March 22, 2023

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a contagious virus that has the potential to severely affect the lungs and respiratory airways. It can seem like a cold, but may be severe, especially in children and senior adults over age 65. But it can affect any one of any age. It can mimic the same symptoms as many of the other viruses that have been affecting the world, such as Covid-19, Flu A and Flu B.

There is no doubt that RSV is one of the most significant causes of lung infections in young children under two years of age, and it is the main reason why children under one year of age (infants and premature) have been admitted to hospitals in many developed countries. Also, older adults above 65 years of age and adults with chronic heart and lung conditions are at higher risk for severe disease and hospitalization.

Early detection is critical for your high-risk patients.

Why choose Acupath Laboratories for RSV testing?

Acupath uses Molecular testing called RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that look for genetic material of the RSV virus in the nasopharyngeal sample. These tests can find smaller amounts of the virus, which is more sensitive than antigen testing. We offer a single, comprehensive PCR test for RSV, Influenza A and Influenza B.

What is the reason for the high prevalence of RSV this year?

The number of RSV infections in North America peaks between late fall and early spring. Infections peak between January and February, and the start and end of the RSV season change year to year. Two-year cycles of RSV infections are typical – one year of higher numbers and severity of illness, followed by one year of milder illness.

By two years of age, most children have had at least one RSV infection, and some have had more than one. While re-infections of RSV are usually milder, having been infected does not provide long-term immunity. Even though antibodies are made against RSV, they only last six to twelve months and require repeated exposure to maintain their high antibody levels.

How does RSV spread?

RSV is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze. RSV can also spread through dried respiratory secretions on bed clothes and related items. RSV can remain on hard surfaces for several hours and on skin for shorter amounts of time.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Common cold symptoms appear three to seven days after an infection. These include fever, a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat, a cough and decreased energy. Muscle aches and a decreased appetite may be experienced by patients. Some patients may have breathing difficulties. RSV infection symptoms are the same as those caused by other respiratory viruses.

Pneumonia (lung infection) can develop in some patients. In infants, bronchiolitis can cause inflammation (swelling) of the tiny tubes that carry air (oxygen) to the lungs. Infants with bronchiolitis commonly produce a wheezing sound when they breathe out. This whistling sound sometimes is only heard using a stethoscope, but sometimes can be heard even without one.

Bronchiolitis and pneumonia can lead to low blood oxygen levels in some patients. It is critical to remember that other respiratory viruses can also lead to pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

How is RSV treated?

Since RSV is a virus, use of antibiotics will not lead to shortening of the illness nor will it lead to shortening the period that sick people are infectious to others. There are no antivirals for treatment of RSV infections yet.

To find out more about the services and testing we provide at Acupath Laboratories, Inc, email us at [email protected].