Infections caused by viruses are universal during childhood and adolescence. Clinicians will regularly care for children and adolescents who present with infections caused by a wide number of viral pathogens. These infections have varied presentations. Many infections may have clinical presentations that are specific to the infecting virus but present differently, based on the age and immunocompetence of the patient. Some children are directly impacted early in their lives when maternal disease results in an in utero infection (cytomegalovirus, rubella virus, or parvovirus B19). Other viruses may infect children in a predictable pattern as they grow older (rhinovirus or influenza virus). Fortunately, many viral infections frequently encountered in the past are no longer extant due to widespread immunization efforts. Recognition of these vaccine-preventable infections is important because outbreaks of some of these diseases (mumps or measles) continue to occur in the United States. Vigilance in vaccine programs against these viral agents can prevent their re-emergence. In addition, an increasing number of viral infections (herpes simplex virus, influenza virus, varicella zoster virus, or cytomegalovirus) can now be successfully treated with antiviral medications. Most viral infections in children result in self-limited illness and are treated symptomatically and infected children experience full recovery. This review will address the epidemiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of viral infections commonly encountered by the clinician.
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