Opportunistic Infections - Respiratory Viral

Diseases / Research

Respiratory Viral Infections

influenza virus particle

This negative-stained transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicts the ultrastructural details of an influenza virus particle, or virion.

Photo by CDC/Erskine L. Palmter, PhD.; M.L. Martin

Click for high-res version

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientists are focused on studying influenza and other respiratory viral infections in cancer patients in order to improve prevention and treatment efforts with the ultimate goal of saving lives.

See our Influenza Disease Page fore more information about our respiratory infection research »

Fast Facts

  • Respiratory viral infections can result in mild to life-threatening illnesses and can include the common cold, pneumonia, bronchitis and respiratory failure, among others. Because they are easily transmitted, such infections occur commonly in healthy populations. Immune-compromised patients are at high risk and are more likely to develop serious or even deadly infections.

  • There are limited treatment options for respiratory viral infections, and therefore early detection and isolation practices are critical to protect high-risk patients. Active prevention, such as influenza vaccination and hand hygiene, is critical to preventing the spread of these infections.

  • Symptoms of infection can include coughing, congestion, pain, mucus, sore throat, fever and more.

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Detection & Diagnosis

Detecting and controlling parainfluenza virus among transplant patients – Infection control programs for hematopoietic cell transplantation patients that emphasize detecting symptoms before initiating infection control measures may not be adequate to prevent transmission of the asymptomatic parainfluenza virus. The finding comes from a study by Drs. Michael Boeckh, Lawrence Corey, Rhoda Morrow, Katherine Guthrie and collaborators. This difficulty in detecting parainfluenza virus means its incidence is likely underestimated with conventional testing methods, according to the study.

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Treatment & Prognosis

Treating influenza in immune-compromised patients – When faced with novel strains of influenza that have limited treatment options – such as during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic – health clinicians who are caring for patients with compromised immune systems should test for infections using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, begin antiviral treatments early, and initiative aggressive infection control procedures. The recommendations were published in late 2009 by Drs. Michael Boeckh and Corey Casper following the seasonal H1N1 outbreak.

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