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Common virus that causes cold-like symptoms can cause pneumonia or even death

The symptoms of Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Belonging into the same family as mumps and measles viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, describes one of the common viruses that trigger coughs and colds in winter.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), epidemics generally start in October and last for the following four to five months, with the peak occurring in December.

While most people with RSV only suffer from a mild illness, the virus can spur on more severe respiratory disease in a small number of patients.

Worryingly, the infection can lead to complications, such as pneumonia or even death, the UKHSA warns.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

When it comes to spotting RSV, the warning signs tend to resemble symptoms of a common cold and strike three to five days after infection.

READ MORE Cyanosis could signal ‘severe’ case of RSV – other signs

Symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing or nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Fever.

Children can also experience symptoms, including a barking cough and ear infections.

Furthermore, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in infants. In fact, over 60 percent of children would have been infected by their first birthday.

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However, the antibodies that you develop during this early childhood infection don’t prevent you from catching RSV throughout life.

How to prevent catching RSV

Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of contracting the virus or passing it on to others.

The UKHSA states: “Transmission can be reduced through standard infection control practices such as respiratory hygiene, hand washing with soap and warm water, and cleaning of surfaces.

“Ideally, people with colds should avoid close contact with newborn babies, infants born prematurely (before 37 weeks), children under two born with heart or lung conditions, and those with weakened immune systems.”

There’s no specific treatment for RSV infection so the target is to ease symptoms and focus on supporting the patient.

There’s an anti-viral drug, known as ribavirin, licensed for the treatment of RSV infection which is sometimes used in severe cases.

However, it may be associated with toxicity and its effectiveness is not established.

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  • Posted on August 3, 2023