Keeping our children safe should be our first concern, especially when it comes to viruses. One of the most common causes of human disease are severe viral infections. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a threatening cause of lower respiratory infection in infants and young children.
RSV is a negative sense, single stranded RNA virus from the family Paramyxoviridae and of the sub family Pneumovirinae. The virion has an envelope with two specific glycoproteins, and can vary in shape and size. The two glycoproteins that are virally specific are G and F. G is in charge of binding the virus to a host cell, and F for fusing the viral envelope with the host cell’s plasma membrane, so the virus can enter. The F protein also was helpful in naming the virus because it also stimulates the fusion of the plasma membranes of the infected cells. The outcome is the formation of a “sanctum or multinucleated mass of fused cells“. The multinucleated syncytia causes inflammation, alveolar thickening, and the filling of the alveolar spaces with fluid.
It is a major cause of respiratory illness in infants and it causes infection in the lungs and in breathing passages. It is highly contagious, and hard to differentiate from the common cold, especially in healthy infants. It is brutal because you can never be immune to it even when you get infected. You can become infected several times, even within the same season.
No vaccine exists but infants who are have a weak immune systems or were born prematurely can receive monthly injections. A type of Prophylactic drug uses Palivizumab which are a type of monoclonal Antibody directed against the RSV proteins. These monthly injections are to be taken just before the RSV season ( from fall to spring) starts and for continued for about five months.
It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, and pneumonia among infants. For those children who are immunocompromised this virus can lead to severe respiratory illness requiring hospitalization, and sometimes even death. This is because infant lungs cannot compensate for the decreased oxygen flow.
Symptoms include fever, cough, rhinitis, and nasal congestion. Others are listlessness, poor or diminished appetite.
It is easy to contract this virus, to prevent exposure of your child may be difficult because it is so widespread but some common safe practices are always a good precaution. Washing your hands and keeping your environment clean. The virus becomes inactivated the soap and water and disinfectants and it can only survive a few hours in the environment by itself. So try to stay away from infected persons.
If you infant is a regular healthy child then treatment may just include keeping your infant or child hydrated with plenty of fluids and oxygen, and keep the air moist with a cool mist vaporizer. And as an extra precaution do not give your infant aspirin while they are having any of these symptoms because it can lead to Reye’s syndrome.
Prescott, Harley, & Klein’s Microbiology seventh edition: page 919