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Viral pneumonia in older adults.

Viruses account for a substantial portion of respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, in the elderly population. Presently, influenza virus A H3N2 and respiratory syncytial virus are the most commonly identified viral pathogens in older adults with viral pneumonia. As diagnostic tests such as reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction become more widely used, the relative importance of additional viruses (such as parainfluenza, rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, and human metapneumovirus) will likely increase. Influenza virus should be considered as a cause of pneumonia during the winter months, especially during periods of peak activity. Patients with high-grade fever, myalgias, and cough should arouse the highest suspicion. Respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia should also be suspected during the winter in patients with coryza, wheezing, low-grade fever, and patchy infiltrates, especially if negative for influenza on rapid testing. Because clinical features and periods of activity for many viruses overlap, laboratory confirmation of influenza is recommended for cases involving seriously ill or institutionalized patients.

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