Viral diseases that affect the respiratory tract

Viral diseases that affect the respiratory tract

  1. Caused by numerous pathogens including respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, rhinovirus, influenza virus, and SARS-CoV-2
  2. Viral respiratory tract infections may lead to pneumonia and be associated with asthma exacerbations 
  3. Similar presenting symptoms include cough, fever, headache, and fatigue
    • Physical examination may find wheezing, rhonchi, and acute respiratory distress
  4. Differentiating features:
    • Viral infections typically do not persist for more than 10 days
      • Symptoms that last longer are likely caused by bacterial infections
  5. Molecular testing using multiplex polymerase chain reaction methods (on respiratory specimens) or antigen detection (eg, respiratory syncytial virus antigens, influenza virus antigens) can be used if a definitive diagnosis is clinically indicated, the diagnosis remains in question, and confirmation will change management (Related: Respiratory syncytial virus infection)
  6. COVID-19 pandemic makes testing for SARS-CoV-2 widely indicated (eg, signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, known or suspected exposure to SARS-CoV-2)
  7. Guideline on community-acquired pneumonia from the American Thoracic Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends testing for influenza with a rapid influenza molecular assay (eg, influenza nucleic acid amplification test)
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