Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes respiratory tract infections. It is the major cause of lower respiratory tract infection and hospital visits during infancy and childhood. There is no vaccine, and the only treatment is oxygen.
In temperate climates there is an annual epidemic during the winter months. In tropical climates, infection is most common during the rainy season.
In the United States, 60% of infants are infected during their first RSV season, and nearly all children will have been infected with the virus by 2-3 years of age. Natural infection with RSV does not induce protective immunity, and thus people can be infected multiple times. Sometimes an infant can become symptomatically infected more than once even within a single RSV season. Severe RSV infections have increasingly been found among elderly patients.
RSV is a negative-sense, single-stranded RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, which includes common respiratory viruses such as those causing measles and mumps. RSV is a member of the paramyxovirus subfamily Pneumovirinae. Its name comes from the fact that F proteins on the surface of the virus cause the cell membranes on nearby cells to merge, forming syncytia.