• respiratory syncytial virus;
  • long-term care facilities;
  • reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)

OBJECTIVES: To report an outbreak of respiratory synctyial virus (RSV) in a long-term care facility (LTCF) during ongoing routine respiratory illness surveillance.

DESIGN: Rapid antigen testing, viral culture, direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) testing, and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for up to 15 viruses in symptomatic residents and chart review.

SETTING: A 120-bed LTCF.

MEASUREMENTS: Comparison of rapid antigen testing, respiratory viral cultures, and DFA testing and RT-PCR in residents with symptoms of a respiratory tract infection.

RESULTS: Twenty-two of 52 residents developed symptoms of a respiratory tract infection between January 29, 2008, and February 26, 2008. RSV was detected using RT-PCR in seven (32%) of the 22 cases. None of the seven cases had positive RSV rapid antigen testing, and only two had positive culture or DFA results. This outbreak occurred during a time when state wide RSV rates were rapidly declining. One patient was admitted to the hospital during the infection and subsequently died.

CONCLUSION: RSV may cause outbreaks in LTCFs that traditional diagnostic methods do not detect. RT-PCR can provide a more timely and accurate diagnosis of outbreaks, which allows for early symptomatic treatment, rational use of antibiotics, and improved infection control.