Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV)

RSV can be dangerous for some infants and young children. Each year in the US, about 58,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infections. 

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    Andrea Alvare

    Director/Health Officer

Helpful Links and Information

Healthy RSV

What is RSV?

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. According to the CDC, most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States. (CDC)

Greatest Risk Groups: (CDC)

  • Premature infants
  • Very young infants (6 months and younger)
  • Children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
  • Children with weakened immune systems
  • Children who have neuromuscular disorders (those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions)

Symptoms and Care:


People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include in following:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.

How to relieve symptoms:

  • Manage fevers, pain or discomfort – (Never give aspirin to children) – Adapted form the CDC.
  • Drink enough fluids
  • Talk to your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment 
  • In an emergency situations head to your local hospital


RSV can spread when:

  • An infected person coughs or sneezes
  • You get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • You have direct contact with the virus, like kissing the face of a child with RSV
  • You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands

RSV and More Serious Health Complications:

RSV can also cause more severe infections such as bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age.

Healthy adults and infants infected with RSV do not usually need to be hospitalized. However, some people with RSV infections, especially older adults and infants younger than 6 months of age, may need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or are dehydrated. 

In more severe cases, a person may require additional oxygen, or IV fluids (if they can’t eat or drink enough), or intubation (have a breathing tube inserted through the mouth and down to the airway) with mechanical ventilation (a machine to help a person breathe). In most of these cases, hospitalization only lasts a few days.


RSV can survive for many hours on hard surfaces such as tables and crib rails. It typically lives on soft surfaces such as tissues and hands for shorter amounts of time.

In the United States and other areas with similar climates, RSV circulation generally starts during fall and peaks in the winter. The timing and severity of RSV circulation in a given community can vary from year to year.