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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is an acute respiratory tract illness that is very common and leads to mild, cold-like symptoms in adults and older healthy children. It can be more serious in young babies, especially to those in certain high-risk groups.
What are the symptoms of RSV?
Symptoms vary and differ with age. They usually appear 4 - 6 days after coming in contact with the virus. Older children and adults usually have only mild, cold-like symptoms, such as cough, stuffy nose, or low-grade fever; however, infants under the age of 1 may experience lethargy, irritability, poor feeding and even periods of apnea.
How is RSV spread?
The virus spreads through tiny droplets that go into the air when a sick person blows their nose, coughs, or sneezes. Infections occur by direct contact with contaminated secretions.
How long is RSV contagious?
The virus can last on environmental surfaces for many hours and for half an hour or more on hands. The virus can also live for up to 5 hours on countertops and for several hours on used tissues.
How is RSV treated?
Antibiotics do not treat RSV. Mild infections will go away without treatment. Infants and young children with a severe infection may be admitted to the hospital.
More to know
  • Humans are the only source of infection.
  • Outbreaks of RSV infections most often begin in the fall and run into the spring.
  • In young children RSV can cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
  • Proper hand hygiene is very important to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Children should not attend child care or school during the acute phase of the illness.
  • Initial infections usually occur within the first 2 years of life and re-infection throughout life is common.