Respiratory Syncytial Virus Diagnosis, Prevention, and Management of Complications

Marie Katie Bozman, PharmD; Carmen Echols, PharmD; Jennifer Andres, PharmD, BCPS


US Pharmacist. 2014;39(7):31-34. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a highly contagious virus that causes pediatric respiratory infections. Most children will contract RSV multiple times throughout childhood, beginning before their first birthday. In many patients RSV infections are minor and self-limiting, but in certain patient populations they can lead to serious complications. Prevention techniques can minimize the spread of RSV. In addition to nonpharmacologic prevention methods, one pharmacologic prevention option, palivizumab, is available for certain patient populations at high risk for complications. Currently, there is a strong need for more preventive and treatment options for RSV.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common childhood viral illness. It is a seasonal infection, with the highest rates occurring in the United States in the fall and winter (between November and March).[1] Most patients are infected before 1 year of age, and almost all children will contract RSV at least once before 2 years of age.[1] Children who are considered non–high-risk for complications (i.e., those without birth complications, defects, or immunosuppression) are usually able to clear the infection in 1 to 2 weeks with relatively minor symptoms. For these children and their parents, RSV is mostly a minor inconvenience, but for certain patients, RSV can cause life-threatening complications. This article will describe RSV in detail, discuss options for preventing disease spread, and provide resources for pharmacists to better prepare for non–high-risk and high-risk patients.