What is RSV?
RSV is caused by a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. While it frequently occurs in young children, it is also a significant cause of respiratory illness in older adults. Infections usually occur in fall, winter and early spring.
RSV infection usually lasts one to two weeks. Repeated infections are common, but a child is usually less sick after the first infection.
People with weakened immune systems and other medical conditions are at highest risk of having severe disease.
What are the symptoms of RSV?
RSV usually causes a mild, cold-like infection with fever, nasal congestion, runny nose, cough and sometimes wheezing.
You should see a health care provider if the illness seems to be causing more serious symptoms.
How is RSV spread?
RSV is found in saliva and secretions (fluids) from the nose and mouth. It spreads from person to person through droplets from coughing and sneezing. These droplets land on the eyes, nose or mouth of nearby persons and can cause infection. They can also land on objects and surfaces in the environment and survive there for hours. The virus found on surfaces gets picked up by the hands and is transferred to the eyes, nose or mouth.
An older child or adult can spread the germs for up to eight days, but an infected infant can be contagious for as long as three to four weeks.
RSV usually starts within three to five days of coming in contact with an infected person.
How is RSV treated?
In most cases all you can do is treat the symptoms. Most healthy children recover completely.
Some children who are severely ill might need to stay in the hospital to monitor their breathing and possibly have oxygen therapy. Those who need to go to the hospital are usually newborns and young infants who have conditions such as chronic heart or lung disease.
You can treat mild symptoms at home.
How is RSV prevented?
Simple preventative measures can reduce the spread of infection.