Respiratory Syncytial Virus Test

Respiratory Syncytial Virus Test – Why am I having this test?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that affects the nose, throat, and upper air passages that lead to the lungs. The virus causes symptoms that are similar to the common cold. In healthy children and adults, RSV infections usually cause very mild symptoms and go away without treatment.

Healthy adults and children 2 years of age and older are rarely tested for RSV. However, RSV may cause more severe symptoms or lung infections (pneumonia) in:

  • Children younger than 2 years of age.
  • Older people.
  • People who have a weakened disease-fighting system (immune system).
  • People who have a long-term (chronic) lung disease.

An RSV test is usually done for people who fall into one of these categories and have symptoms of RSV infection. Symptoms may include:

  • Runny nose.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Sore throat.
  • Coughing.
  • Noisy breathing.

You may also have this test if you live in a community that may have an outbreak of RSV. This information can be used to track and contain the outbreak.

What is being tested?

This test checks for the presence of the respiratory syncytial virus in your body.

What kind of sample is taken?

The test requires a sample of fluid from inside your nose (nasal secretion). To collect a sample, your health care provider may:

  • Spray a small amount of salt water (saline) into your nose and then collect it in a plastic cup.
  • Swab the inside of your nostrils with a long, thin cotton swab.

Tell a health care provider about:

  • Any allergies you have.
  • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Any blood disorders you have.
  • Any surgeries you have had.
  • Any medical conditions you have.
  • Whether you are pregnant or may be pregnant.

How are the results reported?

Your test results will be reported as either positive or negative for RSV.

What do the results mean?

A negative result means that you most likely do not have an RSV infection. A positive result means that you likely do have an RSV infection.

  • Sometimes, the test results may report that a condition is not present when it is present (false-negative result).

Talk with your health care provider about what your results mean.

Questions to ask your health care provider

Ask your health care provider, or the department that is doing the test:

  • When will my results be ready?
  • How will I get my results?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What other tests do I need?
  • What are my next steps?

Summary

  • The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that affects the nose, throat, and upper air passages that lead to the lungs.
  • The virus causes symptoms that are similar to the common cold. However, RSV may cause more severe symptoms or lung infections (pneumonia) in children younger than 2 years of age, older people, or people who have weakened lungs or weakened immune systems.
  • This test requires a sample of fluid from inside your nose (nasal secretion).
  • A negative result means that you most likely do not have an RSV infection. A positive result means that you likely do have an infection. Talk with your health care provider about what your results mean.
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