Peak prevalence is from late October to May. Over 90,000 children are hospitalized at an average cost of $70,000 per child, with 4500 deaths annually from RSV infection. The peak age of incidence in urban populations is 2 months and results in hospitalizations lasting 5 to 7 days. Disease in older children is usually milder. Bronchiolitis has also been shown to be a cause of severe pneumonitis in elderly populations.

This highly infectious virus is transmitted by direct contact with large droplets of secretions and self-inoculation by contaminated hands via the eyes and nose (no significant transmission occurs by small-particle aerosol). RSV-infected secretions remain infectious on countertops for more than 6 h. Strict attention to hand washing and use of masks and gloves can prevent transmission. RSV is shed from the respiratory tract of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients for up to 9 days. Immunocompromised patients may continue to shed for up to 6 weeks.

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