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Who Is Affected by RSV Infection

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is a common illness that affects people throughout life. The first infection is usually the worst and occurs in early childhood. About 9 out of 10 children have had at least one RSV infection by age 2.1

RSV infection spreads easily where there are many people in one area, such as households, urban areas, nursing homes, and child care centers. Because symptoms often resemble those of the common cold, RSV infection is often not recognized. This virus is the most common cause of respiratory infection in young children that requires hospitalization.

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An RSV infection is more likely to cause serious complications in infants younger than 6 months of age, especially those who were born prematurely or have another health problem. Bronchiolitis is the major complication of RSV in infants.

Other people who have an increased risk of developing complications include adults older than 65 and anyone with chronic health problems, especially heart disease, lung disease, or immune system problems. In older adults, pneumonia is a common complication of RSV.


  1. Levin MJ, Weinberg A (2009). Respiratory syncytial virus disease section of Infections: Viral and rickettsial. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 1079-1081. New York: McGraw-Hill.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised July 9, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 09, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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