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Respiratory Syncytial Virus: Assessing Adult Morbidity & Mortality

Respiratory Syncytial Virus: Assessing Adult Morbidity & Mortality

More than 60 years ago, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was first recognized as a cause of bronchiolitis in infants. “RSV has long been thought of as a significant cause of lower respiratory tract infections in young children, but more recent studies indicate that the virus is a potentially serious problem in older adults,” says D. Jane Hata, PhD. Research indicates that RSV outbreaks occurred in long-term care facilities in the 1970s. Since that time, additional studies in hospitalized adults have suggested that RSV may be an important cause of illness among community-dwelling elderly people. Recent estimates of the disease burden of RSV in adults have been based on mathematical models linking viral activity in children with hospitalization and death in adults. According to published research, RSV accounts for approximately 10,000 deaths each year in the United States among people aged 65 or older. Although these estimates are useful, their accuracy is questionable because of the circulation of other respiratory viruses that have clinical symptoms that are indistinguishable from RSV.   Taking a Closer Look Previous studies have shown that morbidity and mortality rates for adult patients with RSV are high. In an effort to examine this phenomenon more thoroughly, Dr. Hata and colleagues had a study published in Diagnostic Microbiology & Infectious Disease in which they retrospectively reviewed 2-year chart data at multiple centers on 334 patients who tested positive for RSV. They then analyzed indicators of morbidity and mortality in children younger than 6 years old, in adults who were immunocompetent and immunosuppressed, and in transplant patients. “Our results showed that several groups of adults with RSV experienced...
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