Respiratory Syncytial Virus
RSV is a very common virus that leads to cold-like symptoms in healthy adults and older children, but for infants, younger children and adults with compromised immune systems, RSV can lead to respiratory infections such as pneumonia and brocholitis.
RSV is a highly contagious virus that inflicts nearly all children by the time they reach two years of age, and is rapidly spread by coughing children. The virus remains contagious for weeks after contraction, and for several hours on surfaces.
For people with compromised immune systems, RSV can cause very severe to fatal complications of the respiratory system. RSV can cause pneumonia to develop and reduce oxygen levels to the organs including the heart and brain. There appears to also be an association between RSV inflicting post-bone marrow transplant patients and their later development of another disease called BOS, Broncholitis Obliterans Syndrome.
Three years ago, RSV was often a life-threatening viral infection for people with compromised immune systems. Today, it is often successfully treated with drugs.
treatment - immune compromised systems
Treatment for BMT patients with compromised immune systems includes a sterile closed air environment of negative pressure, medication administered through a nebulizer and a breathing machine to ease breathing. The nebulizer medication is administered every 8 hours around the clock (or more frequently, as in Victoria's case, at the onset so as to fight the virus), and is very toxic to a person who does not have RSV. During nebulizer administration of the drug, the patient's room is locked down to prevent others from entering (Doctors and nurses do not even enter the room during treatment).
Antibiotics do not treat RSV, which is a virus, but may be used to treat the subsequent infections in the lung, respiratory system or ears, for example as the virus moves into those areas of the body.
how is RSV passed?
RSV is spread through the air, on surfaces and objects, and via direct contact with a person who is infected. The RSV virus lives for many hours on surfaces (likely over 5 hours), for several hours on tissues (likely three hours), and for hours in the air.
risks of acquiring RSV
Risks of acquiring RSV drastically increase when a BMT patient is:
- near or around coughing children,
- at a day care center,
- in attendance at any place where numerous children are present,
- at a school,
- living in crowded conditions, or
- being exposed to tobacco smoke.
BMT patients should take every precaution to avoid exposure to the RSV virus. Some precautions are:
- avoid going into high risk areas, such as crowded environments, schools, day care centers, homes or buildings where children exist;
- if you cannot avoid a high risk area, where a mask and gloves every time you will be exposed to the area;
- wash hand habitually (more than frequently);
- teach your children to wash their hands frequently, and always every time before they touch you, when they arrive home from being anywhere else, and whenever they have had contact with another child regardless of whether that child has RSV;
- stay out of areas where smokers are smoking in enclosed environments;
- don't smoke - it increases your risk to acquire RSV;
- don't allow your children to be around smoke - it increases their risk of acquiring RSV.
The RSV season runs from fall to spring. Outbreaks may be reported in the local news, but that does not mean that RSV is not prevalent if the news isn't reporting an outbreak.
Medication Treatment of RSV
Some of the medications used to treat RSV include:
prevention is the name of the game
If a BMT patient contracts RSV, he or she will be hospitalized for a minimum of 7 days to be treated for the virus. Prevention strategies are critical. Do all you can to prevent from acquiring RSV.
RSV can be fatal; you don't want to take any chances.