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Since its discovery in 1956, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has been recognized as one of the most common causes of serious lower respiratory tract infections in young children worldwide. While considered a high priority, development of a safe and effective vaccine has remained elusive. Prevention of RSV disease relies on infection control and hygiene measures, as well as providing immunoprophylaxis in select infants. The prophylaxis, however, is costly, and so targeting the recipient population and timing of administration is important for optimal effectiveness and judicious use of limited health care resources. This article reviews the epidemiology of RSV infections in infants and young children, including risk factors for severe disease, so as to inform decisions about prevention efforts.

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