Viral Diseases

Three Viral Diseases That Can Cause Infection

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiritory Syncytial Virus (RSV) can cause infection of the upper and lower respiratory tracts. The infection can be minor, producing cold–like symptoms, or major, resulting in pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • clear nasal drainage
  • cough
  • irritability and poor feeding in infants

RSV can be prevented by:

  • good handwashing with soap and water or alcohol–based wipes
  • proper disposal of tissues used to clear nasal secretions
  • cleaning and disinfection of toys used by multiple children

Since RSV is a virus, antibiotics are not used for treatment. Persons with severe infection are treated with fluids and oxygen.

Since children are infectious before showing any signs of RSV, restriction from school or day care will probably not decrease the sread of the virus to others.

There is currently no vaccine that protects against RSV. However, there is an immune globulin available to use with persons of high risk for serious infection with RSV.

West Nile Virus (WNV)

People get West Nile Virus from the bite of a mosquito that is infected with West Nile Virus. Most infections are mild, and symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, often with skin rash and swollen lymph nodes.

The virus multiplies in the person's bloodstream and interferes with normal central nervous system functioning and causes inflammation brain tissue. More severe infection may be marked by neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, and, rarely, death.

All residents of areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of getting West Nile encephalitis. Persons older than 50 have the highest risk of illness. The risk for infection ends when mosquito activity ceases for the season.

There is no specific treatment for WNV, and currently there is no vaccine. A person with more severe infection may need intensive supportive therapy in a hospital.

If you anticipate being exposed to mosquitos:

  • Apply insect repellents containing DEET directly to clothing and skin.
  • Avoid or prevent pooling of stagnant water where mosquitos breed.
  • Stay indoors at dawn dusk, and early evening.
  • Wear light–colored long–sleeve shirts and long pants when outdoors.

Viral Meningitis

Meningitis is a term to describe an illness that causes swelling of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis is caused by a number of different viruses and is a fairly common disease that is rarely fatal. Anyone can get viral meningitis, but it occurs most often in children and adults under 40.

The most common symptoms are fever, severe headache, stiff neck, photophobia (bright lights hurt the eyes), drowsiness or confusion, nausea, and vomiting. Rash, sore throat, and intestinal symptoms may also occur.

There are no specific medications or antibiotics used to treat viral meningitis. Most patients recover completely on their own with bed rest, plenty of fluids, and medicine to relieve fever and headache.

The viruses can be spread by having direct contact with repiratory secretions (saliva, sputum, and nasal secretions) of an infected person and then rubbing your nose, mouth, or eyes. Changing diapers of infected children requires good handwashing afterwards. Some viruses causing meningitis can be spread by mosquitos.


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