Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that typically spreads during the fall and winter months, just like flu and COVID-19. We are seeing an uptick of RSV in New York City. While anyone can be infected, RSV most often causes serious illness in very young children, like those under 6 months, and those with a weakened immune system, including those over 65. Learn more below to help you and your family stay safe this fall and winter.
Spread & Symptoms
RSV is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze. Symptoms generally begin four to six days after exposure. The contagious period is usually 10 days after symptoms begin
Typical symptoms resemble the common cold (i.e., cough, fever, runny nose). However, RSV infection can also result in pneumonia, especially in the very young, the very old or those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms, particularly a cough, may persist for a few days to a number of weeks.
If you or your child have symptoms consistent with RSV, or any respiratory illness, contact your health care provider right away who can help you with diagnosis and care.
Prevention & Treatment
To protect your family from RSV, especially if you or your child are especially vulnerable, follow these important steps:
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching the face with unwashed hands
- Limit the time they spend in childcare centers or other potentially contagious settings during periods of high RSV activity.
If illness develops, manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Don’t give aspirin to children.) If your child was born preterm and is at high risk of developing severe infection due to underlying lung conditions, talk to their health care provider about Palivizumab (Synagis).
Since the symptoms of RSV resemble flu and COVID-19, it is important to stay up to date with your COVID-19 shots and get an annual flu shot. There is currently no vaccine for RSV but one is in the pipeline.
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- Call your health care professional if you or your child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms.