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N Engl J Med. 1979 Feb 22;300(8):393-6.

Neonatal respiratory syncytial virus infection.

Abstract

Respiratory syncytial virus infections are thought to be uncommon in the first month of life. During a community outbreak, we prospectively studied such infection in our neonatal units. Of 82 neonates studied, 66 were hospitalized for six days or longer, and 23 (35 per cent) acquired this virus. Four infants died, two unexpectedly. Infected infants had a significantly shorter gestation and birth weight. Illness was often atypical, with nonspecific signs, especially in infants under three weeks of age, who had significantly less lower-respiratory-tract involvement and lower quantities of virus in their nasal washes. The titer of virus shed correlated with the infants' postnatal, but not gestational, age. Infection was also acquired by 34 per cent of the staff, who appeared to be important in the spread of the virus. These findings suggest that respiratory syncytial virus may readily infect neonates, but the disease may be atypical and may be overlooked.

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