RSV, or respiratory Syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, infections occur most commonly in young babies. It is estimated that virtually every baby under the age of 2 world-wide has experienced this virus. For many it's just shrugged off as a cold, as its symptoms resemble that and in babies with normal immune systems it's not as much of an issue. For those babies with compromised immune systems, however, it's a lot more serious.
This virus is the leading cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants. Severe RSV symptoms usually occur between the ages of 2-8 months. It is estimated that 4-5 million children younger than the age of 4 will come down with an RSV infection and more than 125,000 children are hospitalized each year in the United States. Canada and the United States already have RSV vaccines in place though administration differs in each country with only those infants with pre-existing medical conditions being offered the vaccine in Canada. In the United States, RSV vaccines are available to premature babies (less than 35 weeks) and/or who have other respiratory issues, as well as those full-term babies with chronic lung or congenital heart disease.
Chances are if you're reading this article, your son or daughter has probably had this virus.
RSV has also been seen in older children and adults with usually less severe symptoms.
Who is at Risk?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the following groups are at higher risk of contracting RSV:
- Infants born at 28 weeks or earlier during the RSV season (generally fall to spring), whenever that occurs during the first 12 months;
- Infants born at 29-32 weeks and are less than 6 months old at that start of the RSV season;
- Infants born at 32-35 weeks who are less than 3 months old at the start of RSV season or who are born during RSV season and are in child care or have a sibling that is younger than 5 years old;
- Infants and children under the age of 2 who have cyanotic or complicated congenital heart disease,
or who have been treated for chronic lung disease within 6 months prior to the start of RSV season; and