Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

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Member of the Parmxyoviridea family, 150-300 nm in diameter, enveloped, -ssRNA virus.

Growth Conditions

Human epithelial cell lines (HEp-2). 

Health Hazards

Host Range


Modes of Transmission

Directly by respiratory secretions, inhalation of large droplets, fomites, and oral contact. Indirectly by hands, articles soiled by respiratory or nasal secretions

Signs and Symptoms

Runny nose, loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and fever.

Infectious Dose

>100-640 infectious organisms (when administered intranasally).

Incubation Period

Incubation period is 2-8 day, however shedding may continue for several weeks.

Medical Precautions/Treatment


Human immunoglobulin and monoclonal antibodies.


None Available


Aerosolized or oral ribavirin and immunoglobulin/ monoclonal antibodies to high risk groups. These groups include premature infants, immunocompromised individuals and children with cyanotic congenital heart disease.


Monitor symptoms.

Emory Requirements

Report all exposures

Laboratory Hazards

Laboratory Acquired Infections (LAIs)

Only one reported case in 1978. However, it is likely that many LAIs occur but have not been reported due to the difficulty to link it back to the laboratory cause


Nasal washes and secretions, nasopharyngeal swabs.

Supplemental References

Canadian MSDS

Pathogen Safety Data Sheets 

CDC Guidelines

RSV Information 

Journal of Virology

Wright, PF et Al. (2005). Growth of respiratory syncytial virus in primary epithelial cells from the human respiratory tract. J. Virol. 79: 8651-8654.



For all procedures involving infectious body tissue, fluid, or viral cultures.


For all procedures involving animals infected with RSV.

Spill Procedures


Notify others working in the lab. Allow aerosols to settle. Don appropriate PPE. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply an appropriate disinfectant, working from the perimeter towards the center. Allow 30 minutes of contact time before disposal and cleanup of spill materials.


Contact Emory’s Biosafety Officer (404-727-8863),
the EHSO Office (404-727-5922), or
The Spill Response Team (404-727-2888).

Exposure Procedures

Mucous membrane

Flush eyes, mouth or nose for 15 minutes at eyewash station.

Other Exposures

Wash area with soap and water for 15 minutes. Ethanol rubs may be used for splashes and intact skin.


Immediately report incident to supervisor, complete an employee incident report in PeopleSoft.

Medical Followup 

7am-4pm (OIM): EUH (404-686-7941) EUHM (404-686-7106) WW (404-728-6431)

After Hours: OIM NP On Call 404-686-5500 PIC# 50464

Needle Stick (OIM): EUH (404-686-8587) EUHM (404-686-2352)

Yerkes: Maureen Thompson Office (404-727-8012) Cell (404-275-0963)



Susceptible to 1% sodium hypochlorite, 70% ethanol, 2% gluteraldehyde, and detergents.


Inactivated by freeze/thaw cycles, acidic conditions (pH<5), and heat (>55°C)

Survival Outside Host

Contaminated nasal secretions are viable on towels, cloths, rubber gloves, and other surfaces for up to 8 hours.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Minimum PPE Requirements

At minimum, personnel are required to don gloves, closed toed shoes, lab coat, and appropriate face and eye protection prior to working with RSV. Additional PPE may be required depending on lab specific SOPs.