Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a leading cause of respiratory infection, particularly in newborns and children. This flu season, RSV hospitalizations are increasing sooner than usual and in greater numbers than during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are experiencing common cold symptoms, but are unsure if you have the ordinary cold or an RSV infection, this article will answer your questions.
It is the most common cause of respiratory infections in young children in the United States and around the world. Seasonal RSV usually spreads through a community in the fall, winter, and early spring. Most years, the first outbreaks start in late fall or early winter, and end in early spring. Although most people with RSV only experience mild symptoms for a few days, the condition can be severe for some, especially young children and the elderly.
Learn more about RSV infection, symptoms, testing and other topics from the ApexLab Clinical Lab team.
What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and how do you test for it?
The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common and highly contagious illness that affects the lungs. The presence of respiratory syncytial virus can be checked for in the mucus that comes out of the nose, which helps make a diagnosis.
When is the Best Time to Get a Test?
When a baby, an older person, or someone with a weak immune system gets a moderate to severe respiratory infection during RSV season (late fall to early spring in the US) and shows symptoms like a runny nose, congestion, coughing, and/or trouble breathing.
The vast majority of people who get RSV recover on their own, without any help from doctors or a diagnosis. Infants, young children with heart or lung problems, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems are more likely to get sick, so they must get tested. In people at high risk, RSV can cause pneumonia and bronchiolitis, which is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes.
The symptoms of an infection with the respiratory syncytial virus are not always the same, and usually show up 4–6 days after exposure. Here are some possible signs:
- Cough and sneezes
- Itchy nose and sore throat
- Loss of Appetite
Very young newborns may not show any signs other than being restless, not moving around much, and having trouble breathing. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that RSV lower respiratory infections in children younger than 5 years cause more than 3.4 million hospital stays every year.
What’s the point of getting Respiratory Syncytial Virus tested?
During the RSV season, people with moderate to severe symptoms and a lower respiratory tract infection are often tested for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) to figure out what’s wrong. It is usually given to babies between 6 months and 2 years old, the elderly, and people with weaker immune systems because of things like lung disease or organ transplants.
Most adults and older children with RSV will only have mild upper respiratory infections, with symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and fever. Because of this, routine testing is not recommended for this group.
With the help of RSV testing, the spread of RSV in a community can be tracked and kept an eye on. Because RSV is dangerous to people already weak, it is a top priority for public health officials to stop and stop it spreading. People with only mild symptoms may be tested for RSV only if it is important to track how the virus is spreading. If the area has both influenza and adenovirus, influenza testing may be done.
When testing for RSV, the way samples are taken is the most important thing. The best and most common type of sample is a nasal aspirate or wash. Small amounts of sterile saline are injected into the nose with a syringe and either sucked out or collected in a cup with mild suction (for a wash).
Nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs are sometimes used, but they aren’t the best choice because they usually only collect a small amount of viruses. To get the NP swab, a Dacron swab (which looks like a long Q-tip) is gently put into one nostril until it meets resistance (about 1 to 2 inches in), then twisted several times, and finally pulled out. This won’t hurt them, but their eyes might water a little.
Currently, there are a number of ways to test for RSV:
- Rapid Respiratory Syncytial Virus Test (Rapid RSV Test):
The gold standard is to test for rapid respiratory syncytial virus antigen. Rapid RSV antigen testing is often done at the doctor’s clinic or emergency room of a hospital. Most of the time, the results are ready within an hour. Sometimes, you need to take a sample and send it to a lab, so that it can be looked at more closely there. Most of the time, these RSV tests give results the same day they are taken.
- RSV RT-PCR Test:
RSV RT-PCR is a molecular test that can find the virus’s DNA. It is more sensitive than testing for antigens or growing viruses in a lab. It can also be used with other diagnostic tools to rule out other viruses that can cause symptoms similar to RSV.
- Virus cultures:
They can be used to grow the RSV virus and figure out what it is. Viral cultures can be used to find the RSV virus and any other respiratory virus. As more labs switch to molecular tests to find viral infections, there are less and less viral cultures. Because viral cultures are more expensive, harder, and take longer, they aren’t used as much in clinical settings.
How soon do we need a Respiratory Syncytial Virus test?
Almost all RSV tests are asked for from late fall to early spring, which is “cold and flu season.” For cases of lower respiratory infections that worsen and have symptoms like:
- coughing up a lot of mucus
- Not enough air to breathe (primarily in infants)
- Sudden start of stuffy nose and mucus discharge
- A sore throat.
Early on in an infection, the virus is often shed in amounts that can be detected. This means testing must be done between the first few days of infection and the start of symptoms.
If an RSV test returns positive, it is likely that the person has an infection with the respiratory syncytial virus and that the virus is spreading. A positive RSV test, on the other hand, doesn’t tell the doctor anything about how bad the patient’s symptoms are or how long it’s been since the infection. Four to six days after infection, most people start to feel sick.
If an RSV test is negative, it could be because the individual being tested doesn’t have the virus or because there wasn’t enough of it in the sample. There are two possible reasons for this: either the sample collection wasn’t good enough or the patient wasn’t shedding enough virus for testing to be useful. Adults shed less virus than by newborns, and less virus is shed by people who have had RSV for more than a few days than by people who just got it.
What do I still need to know about RSV infection?
Most respiratory syncytial virus infections get better on their own in two weeks. There are many different strains of RSV, and people can get sick with them again and again. However, secondary infections usually cause fewer symptoms and last less time than the first illness. Because most RSV infections are harmless, they are sometimes just called “the common cold” when they happen more than once. People who have RSV-like symptoms often don’t get a proper diagnosis and use over-the-counter cold medicines instead.
Some people who are at high risk get drug treatment for a short time. Even though it doesn’t prevent or treat respiratory syncytial virus infection, it makes it less likely that the virus will infect the lower respiratory tract and cause hospitalisation. By getting the immunotherapy palivizumab, newborns in the NICU may be protected from getting RSV. RSV is more likely to happen to premature babies
It’s important to take a RSV test, so why not? Know more at https://apex-laboratories.com/contact-us/