A negative test means the person does not have antibodies to RSV in their blood. This means the person has never had an RSV infection.
If an RSV test is positive, then it is likely that the person has a respiratory syncytial virus infection. A positive test can also confirm the presence of RSV in the community.
A positive RSV test cannot, however, tell a healthcare practitioner how severe a person’s symptoms are likely to be or how long ago the patient was infected.
Symptoms usually appear 4-6 days after infection. Negative RSV tests may mean that the person tested has something other than RSV or that there is not sufficient virus in the sample to be detected.
This may be due to either a poor specimen collection or because the person is not shedding detectable levels of virus into his or her respiratory secretions.
Adults tend to shed less virus than infants do, and those who have had RSV for several days will shed less than those with a more recent infection.