Respiratory infections are common, principally causing colds in both adults and children. Most are fairly mild, self limiting and confined to the upper respiratory tract. However, these can progress and cause more severe infections and even death. There is a wide variety of viral causes of respiratory infection including rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza viruses A & B, para influenza viruses, adenoviruses, human metapneumovirus and coronaviruses. In addition bacteria may cause lower respiratory tract infections, some of which follow an initial viral infection.

Outbreaks of respiratory virus infection are associated with increased hospitalisations and mortality. Patients with compromised immune, cardiac, or pulmonary systems are at increased risk of serious complications of infection. To aid healthcare planning, surveillance of infections in the community is used to alert health care providers to diagnostic considerations, management and prevention options.



The purpose of this document is to provide concise guidance for all staff to minimise the potential risks of infection and to ensure prompt recognition of those patients who are at risk of infection, including isolation and infection prevention and control measures.



There is a seasonal problem of epidemic respiratory virus infections in the UK Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) causes annual winter epidemics usually occurring in children from November to January. Influenza also occurs during winter months and can affect all age groups, particularly the elderly and the immunocompromised. Often, the need for hospitalisation is due to complications such as pneumonia.

Newly emerging diseases such as SARS coronavirus (-CoV), Avian Influenza H5N1 and H7N9 and MERS-Coronavirus have the potential to cause severe human illness.


Policy Details

Download: PDF version
Compiled by: The Infection Control Team
Ratified by: Clinical Governance Committee
Date Ratified: April 2018
Date Issued: April 2018
Review Date: April 2021
Target Audience: All staff
Contact name: Kanchan Dhamija, Consultant Microbiologist / Infection Control Doctor


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