What is RSV?
RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. It is a common respiratory illness caused by a virus. Anyone can be infected, but RSV most often causes serious illness in infants and young children. The virus may also cause serious illness in older adults or those with a weakened immune system. RSV infections are more common in the fall and winter. Almost all children will have had RSV by their second birthday.
Why are health officials concerned?
RSV can cause more serious health problems. It can cause bronchiolitis, which is inflammation of the small airways in the lung. It also can cause pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. Older adults and infants younger than 6 months of age may need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or if they become dehydrated. In serious cases, the sick person may require oxygen, IV fluids, or intubation. Rates of hospitalization due to RSV this flu season are higher than past years. (https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/research/rsv-net/dashboard.html)
How does RSV spread?
RSV spreads through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of the infected person. These droplets are spread when a person coughs or sneezes. RSV can also spread through dried respiratory secretions on personal items such as bedclothes. RSV can live on hard surfaces for several hours and on the skin for shorter periods of time.
What are the symptoms of RSV?
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
- In infants, symptoms may include irritability, decreased activity, difficulty breathing
How do I know if I have RSV?
RSV is diagnosed by a health care provider based off a symptom assessment and/or RSV testing. Home tests for RSV are not available.
What to do if you or your child have RSV
- If you or your child have symptoms consistent with RSV, reach out to your healthcare provider right away, especially if symptoms are severe
- In many cases, care for RSV is supportive and includes
- Managing fever and pain with over-the-counter medications
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Always talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines
- Never give aspirin to children
- Stay home from school or work while ill to prevent spreading the illness
- Practice good hand hygiene
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow rather than your hands
How can I prevent an RSV infection?
There is no vaccine to prevent RSV but you can take steps to help prevent the spread. If you have cold-like symptoms you should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid close contact with others (kissing, shaking hands, sharing cups, sharing eating utensils)
- Clean frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, mobile devices)
Upstate’s Public Health Hotline is available 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 315-464-3979.
The hotline is staffed by nurses who will answer questions about RSV, FLU, COVID and other acute illness in children and adults. Hotline nurses can provide recommendations on where to bring your child if they need to be seen by a provider. Your child’s primary care provider is the best place to obtain medical advice. The Upstate Public Health Hotline is available to answer your questions if your Primary Care Provider is not available. In this respiratory season, emergency rooms and urgent care centers are crowded with patients. A call to your Primary Care Provider or the Hotline for advice may provide you with information for care at home so you can avoid long waits for an in-person emergency visit.
Where are cases of RSV occurring?
- Unlike other illnesses like influenza, RSV is not a reportable illness. This means that individuals cases of RSV in the community are not reported to the local health department or New York State Health Department
- To track RSV trends the CDC collects reports through a voluntary, laboratory-based surveillance system called NREVSS (National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System)
- Data on RSV by state can be found: https://www.cdc.gov/surveillance/nrevss/rsv/state.html#NY
- Data by county is not available at this time
RSV In the United States Statistics (From CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/research/index.html)
Each year in the United States, RSV leads to approximately:
- 2.1 million outpatient (non-hospitalization) visits among children younger than 5 years old.
- 58,000-80,000 hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old.
- 60,000-120,000 hospitalizations among adults 65 years and older.
- 6,000-10,000 deaths among adults 65 years and older.
- 100–300 deaths in children younger than 5 years old.
CDC RSV Page: https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html
New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) RSV Page: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/respiratory_syncytial_virus/
RSV & Infants NYSDOH Fact Sheet: https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/13721.pdf