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Respiratory Syncytial Virus
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Respiratory Syncytial Virus and African Americans

The National Medical Association (NMA) and the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) convened a Consensus Panel to definethe key needs in the area of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) with respect to African Americans and other minorities.

[PDF] Findings and recommendations are outlined this report.

Consensus Panel

[PDF] Members of the NMA Consensus Panel on Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Latest News

NMA News Special Edition on RSV

Physicians Urge RSV Protection for Black Infants
By Susanne Tropez-Sims, MD

NMA Press Releases on RSV

January 16, 2013

[PDF] The Nation’s Association of African American Physicians Continues to Assert the Need to Protect Premature Infants and is Concerned about the Lack of Response from the American Academy of Pediatrics

September 19, 2011

[PDF] A Call for Protection of the Nation’s Babies from RSV from the National Medical Association

October 27, 2010

[PDF]National Medical Association and National Black Nurses Association Release Consensus Report on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Information from the Centers for Disease Control

Consumer Poster

About Respiratory Synctytial Virus

What is RSV? 1, 2, 3 

RSV is a contagious seasonal virus. It causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract that often hospitalization of infants and adults more than the common flu per year. The virus can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia.

How is RSV contracted? 3

Similar to the flu, RSV enters the body when an infected person coughs or sneezes and their secretions are inhaled, or passed along to others through direct contact i.e. shaking hands or touching surfaces. Once the unsuspected person touches their mouth, nose or eyes, the RSV virus is contracted. 

Risk Factors

Risk factors are things that increase your chances of getting the virus. The risk of contracting RSV increases with a number of risk factors such as:

  • Patients who have a weakened immune system due to other diseases or treatment i.e. HIV/AIDS, undergoing chemotherapy or transplant recipient.3
  • Older adults 3
  • Premature babies 5
  • Living in cramped conditions 5
  • Children who attend day care 5
  • Patients with congenital lung disease 6
  • Patients with heart disease and/or heart failure patients 6
  • Low birth weight babies 7
  • A family history of asthma  7
  • The presence of tobacco smoke 8
  • Mothers who had multiple births 9
  • African American decent 10
  • Children that have not been breastfed 10
  • Pre-existing respiratory health concerns 10

Symptoms  3, 10

  • Mild cold-like signs and symptoms
  • Congested or runny nose
  • Dry/Sever cough
  • Wheezing
  • Sore throat
  • Mild headache
  • Nausea
  • High fever
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low energy
  • Irritable
  • Middle ear infection

Hospitalization & Emergency Room Visits Facts

  • RSV causes approximately 125,000 infant hospitalizations annually. 1
  • Among children, in 2005 and three years prior, RSV generated 21.5 per 1,000 emergency room visits. 4
  • Every year, RSV impacts the 110 % more hospital visits than influenza (flu).11
  • Children in the 0 to 23 months age group had the highest rate of emergency room visits at 64.4 per 1,000 children. 11
  • 177,000 persons age 65 and over are hospitalized per year. 11

Typical length of Illness 3, 10

The recovery period typically lasts between 8 to 15 days.

In extreme cases RSV can be life threatening. Any patient showing any of the symptoms should see their primary care provider immediately.

It is very important that patients, particularly those with existing respiratory concerns be seen by a health care professional as the illness may become life threatening.

Hospitalization may be required depending on severity.

Always seek immediate medical attention if breathing becomes difficult.

Prevention 3, 10

  • The RSV virus can remain alive on various surfaces, particularly the hands for as long as 13 minutes. 10
  • Hand washing and frequent hand sanitizing is very important all year long, but particularly during the RSV season (October through March). 10
  • Avoid people with RSV until they have fully recovered. 10
  • Keep all frequently used surfaces clean such as countertops, door handles, kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Don’t sharing dishes and cutlery. 
  •  Stop smoking/Don't smoke.
  • Sanitize all toys frequently.
  • Wash toys regularly. Do this especially when your child or a playmate is sick.


1. Leaders S, Kohlhase K. Respiratory syncytial virus-coded pediatric hospitalization, 1997 to 1999. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 2002; 21:629-632

2. Shay DK, Homan RC, Newman RD, et al Bronchioltis-associated hospitalizations among US children, 1980-1996. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1999; 282; 1440-1446

3. Mayo Clinic. Respiratory syncytial virus. Available at

4. Bourgeois FT, Valim C, Mc Adam AJ, et al. Relative impact of influence and respiratory synctial virus in young children. Pediatrics. 2009 Dec; 124(6): e1072-80, Epub 2009 November 23.

5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Red Book: Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 27th ed. Elk Grove Village, II: American Academy of Pediatrics. 2006: 563

6. Moore KL, Persaud TVN. The Developing Human. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders. 2008: 197-210

7. Carrol KN, Gebretsadik T. Griffin MR , et al. Maternal asthma and maternal smoothing are associated with increased risk of bronchitis during infancy. Pediatrics. 2007; 119: 1104-1112

8. Von Linstow ML, Hogh M. Norbdo SA, et al. A community study of clinical traits and risk factors for numerous meta pneumovirus and respiratory synctial virus infections during the first year of life. European Journal of Pediatrics. 2008: 167: 1125- 1133

9. Groothius J, Makari D. Hoopes M. RSV Risk: Understanding RSV- Related Hospitalization of High Risk Infants. Clinical Briefs. October 2009. 6(4) Suppl. 5

10. Respiratory Syncytial Virus and African Americans: A Peer Reviewed Consensus Pane. National Medical Association (2010). Available at

11. Falsey AR, Hennessey PA, Formica MA, et all Respiratory syncytial virus infection in elderly and high-risk adults. New England Journal of Medicine. 2005; 352;: 1749-59

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