Respiratory Syncytial Virus - RSV

Respiratory Syncytial Virus - RSV

Public Health Fact Sheet

What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?
Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. 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 one year of age in the United States.  It is also a significant cause of respiratory illness in older adults. 

How is RSV spread?
RSV is spread through direct and indirect contact with respiratory secretions of infected individuals. Direct contact occurs when a person breathes in the respiratory droplets that are in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Indirect contact occurs when a person touches any surface or item contaminated with the respiratory secretions of someone with RSV.  RSV can live for many hours on hard surfaces like tables or crib rails.  People with RSV are typically contagious for 3-8 days.

How is RSV treated?
Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two.  Treatment is generally focused on relieving the symptoms.  For more serious illness, some people with RSV need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or are dehydrated.

How is RSV prevented?

The best way to prevent RSV is frequent handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve - NOT your hands.  Do not share drinks or utensils.

Additional information is available on the CDC website at

Symptoms of Respiratory Syncytial Virus

  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Wheezing

February 2020