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Respiratory syncytial virus
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paramyxovirus p. 164, 167
pneumonia p. 176, NaN
prophylaxis p. 120
It’s most often caused by infection from the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
It mostly affects young children, and actually causes illness in nearly every child at some point in their life.
Respiratory syncytial virus is a virus that causes the cells lining the respiratory tract to merge; they form a large multinucleated “cell” called a syncytia.
Respiratory syncytial virus is part of the Pneumoviridae family.
It’s transmitted when an infected person sneezes or coughs, which spreads thousands of droplets containing the virus into the surrounding area up to about two meters, or six feet, away.
These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people nearby, or be inhaled into their lungs.
The virus can also survive on surfaces for a few hours, so it’s possible to get the virus by touching an infected surface, like a contaminated doorknob, and then touch your own eyes, nose, or mouth.
It creates some local damage, and then works its way down the respiratory tree; it’s kind of like a secret agent rappelling down a rope of mucus.
Respiratory syncytial virus is an enveloped virus with a linear negative-sense strand of RNA.
This means that once the virus enters its RNA into a respiratory epithelial cell, that strand has to be converted into a complementary sense strand in order to be translated.
The cell is forced to use its energy and organelles to make viral proteins; it basically turns into a virus factory.
The new viruses invade neighboring cells, creating multinucleated syncytia out of some cells while destroying others.
The cellular destruction attracts nearby immune cells, which are like natural killer cells whose job is to kill the virus-infected cells.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is most known to infect the human respiratory tract and cause bronchiolitis, which is an inflammation of the bronchioles, the smallest air passages of the lungs. It usually occurs in children less than two years of age with the majority being aged between three and six months. It presents with coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath which can cause some children difficulty in feeding. Bronchiolitis is typically diagnosed clinically, and the treatment is supportive with supplemental oxygen and giving fluids to prevent dehydration.
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