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Human Parainfluenza viruses are a significant cause of respiratory tract infection especially in children.  There are four types of PIV, types 1, 2, 3, and 4. Similar to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (PIV), PIV is a member of the Paramyxoviridae family of viruses and has an RNA genome. The virus has a lipid envelope that contains viral glycoproteins that are involved in entry of the virus into cells and fusion of the viral envelope with cell membranes.

PIV infection

PIV infection that often resembles the common cold, however, PIV-1 can cause more severe disease such as croup (laryngotracheobronchitis) with a characteristic bark-like cough. Most infections occur from October through April.


PIV is readily spread from contact with respiratory secretions from infected individuals or contaminated surfaces and objects.


Clinicians are not able to accurately diagnose PIV infection based on signs and symptoms alone. There are many other viruses that infect the respiratory tract and there is a large overlap of symptoms among these infections. Diagnostic tests performed on specimens taken from the respiratory tract provide a useful aid to the diagnosis of PIV. Traditionally, laboratories used viral culture to detect PIV and improvements in virus culture techniques allowed for results within 48-72 hours. The direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) method allows detection of virus within 2-3 hours, but is labor intensive and requires considerable experience.  Molecular methods such as reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-based tests are the most accurate methods to detect PIV.

Medical Management of PIV infection
Management of a PIV infection is generally focused on symptomatic therapy.  When a PIV infection becomes more serious and progresses to bronchiolitis, patient management goals are to relieve respiratory distress, alleviate airway obstruction and improve oxygen levels.

Prevention of PIV infection

There is no vaccine for available for PIV. Prevention of PIV infection depends on good hygienic methods to reduce the spread of the virus.

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