Falsey AR, Walsh EE. Respiratory syncytial virus infection in adults. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000;13(3):371-384. doi:10.1128/cmr.13.3.371-384.2000
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is now recognized as a significant problem in certain adult populations. These include the elderly, persons with cardiopulmonary diseases, and immunocompromised hosts. Epidemiological evidence indicates that the impact of RSV in older adults may be similar to that of nonpandemic influenza. In addition, RSV has been found to cause 2 to 5% of adult community-acquired pneumonias. Attack rates in nursing homes are approximately 5 to 10% per year, with significant rates of pneumonia (10 to 20%) and death (2 to 5%). Clinical features may be difficult to distinguish from those of influenza but include nasal congestion, cough, wheezing, and low-grade fever. Bone marrow transplant patients prior to marrow engraftment are at highest risk for pneumonia and death. Diagnosis of RSV infection in adults is difficult because viral culture and antigen detection are insensitive, presumably due to low viral titers in nasal secretions, but early bronchoscopy is valuable in immunosuppressed patients. Treatment of RSV in the elderly is largely supportive, whereas early therapy with ribavirin and intravenous gamma globulin is associated with improved survival in immunocompromised persons. An effective RSV vaccine has not yet been developed, and thus prevention of RSV infection is limited to standard infection control practices such as hand washing and the use of gowns and gloves.
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