Influenza and RSV respiratory tract disease

Respiratory Synctial Virus (RSV) and influenza (flu) are two types of common seasonal diseases that occur mainly in winter, and both effects the respiratory tract. Flu is responsible for the death of thousands of people annually in USA, while majority of them being of age group 65 years and over. RSV is most common amongst children and is responsible for about 50% children hospitalization around the world. As for adults, it ranks second to flu.There are factors other than the age group which may be a reason for getting the diseases such as having a weak immune system. RSV and flu both have their own symptoms, diagnosis and treatments in which the two are similar in some ways and different in other ways.

There are many symptoms which indicate RSV and flu of which are shared by the two. Like influenza, RSV may be indicated by fever, wheezing, and cough. However, RSV cough differs from flu in that the RSV cough is non-productive while flu is accompanied by a productive cough. General malaise and myalgia are significant symptoms of flu. In contrast, RSV is accompanied by sinusitis, loss of appetite and anorexia.

Clinical symptoms can be a means for RSV and flu diagnosis, but because of some shared symptomes between the two, further tests are to be done to confirm the diagnosis. Nasal swabs and examination of respiratory tract are used to diagnose RSV. For a clearer diagnosis the best technique is by viral culture. However, this techniqueis not recommended because the results are only available after several days. Another technique for RSV diagnosis is by the enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA), which is used for the diagnosis of flu. ELISA identifies RSV and flu antigen rapidly. A great rise is RSV-specific IgG indicates RSV infection, while a rise in acute and convalescent serum antibodies indicate influenza. However, because is takes a long period to get the results for flu it is not commonly used to diagnose.Therefore, a typical way to confirm flu diagnosis is by isolating influenza virus from respiratory secretions by tissue culture and testing them.

RSV and influenza, although both being respiratory diseases, do not share the same treatments. Influenza is treated by taking plenty of rest and by the two drugs amantadine hydrochloride and rimantidine hydrochloride, which both belongs to the tricylic amine group. The symptoms are treated by analgesics (pain relievers) and antipyretics (fever reducers). In contrast, RSV is treated by the antiviral agent, Ribavarin, which is delivered as small particles of aerosol and is not administered intravenously due to its high toxicity. However, recent studies have found that this drug, the only treatment for RSV, is not very effective either in children or in adults. Therefore, Ribavarin is recommended for adults only in severe cases.

Despite sharing some symptoms and a diagnostic technique, the technique using ELISA, RSV and influenza differ completely in treatment. Even though flu kills thousands of people annually, it has effective treatment and patients can recover fully. The death rates can be decreased by educating the patient about the disease and the importance of taking the treatment properly. However, RSV has currently no specific antiviral treatment or vaccine available.This indicates that further urgent and serious studies are needed to be made in order to find an effective drug to treat RSV.


RSV, British Lung Foundation

The difference between influenza and the common cold

Sample contents.