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RSV in Adults: Are You At Risk?

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: April McIntyre, APRN, FNP-C
RSV in Adults: Are You At Risk?

In the U.S., Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections occur primarily during the fall and winter months, much like cold and flu. This year, we have started to see more cases occurring in the spring and summer months.

In March 2021, the CDC noted increases in RSV infections across the country and particularly in the southern states, including Louisiana. After following the public health measures taken in 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, people are becoming more social and interacting more, which allows the RSV virus more opportunity to pass from one individual to another than it did in the fall and winter of 2020.

Watch this video for insight on how RSV impacts adults.


What is RSV?

RSV is a common virus that causes acute respiratory tract illnesses. While we typically hear of it occurring mostly in small children and babies, adults also can get RSV. For some adults, it can cause serious complications that may lead to a stay in the hospital.

How Is It Spread?

RSV is an airborne virus that can be spread a few different ways, including:

  • Coughs and sneezes of an infected person
  • Droplets of the virus from a cough and sneeze getting into your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Touching your eyes, nose or mouth after coming in contact with a surface infected with the virus
  • Direct contact with the virus, like kissing the face of someone who is infected.

How Contagious Is RSV?

A person infected with RSV is usually contagious for about 3 to 8 days. However, some infants and people with weakened immune systems can continue to spread the virus for as along as 4 weeks, even after they stop showing symptoms.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone can get RSV. However, since our immune systems get weaker as we age, older adults are at greater risk than younger adults. Those at the highest risk for severe RSV infection include:

  • Older adults, especially those 65 years and older
  • Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
  • Adults with weakened immune systems.

What Are the Symptoms?

In adults, most symptoms are mild and include cold-like symptoms such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever.

Infants and young children may experience cough, decreased appetite or difficulty feeding, fever, lethargy, sneezing and sometimes wheezing.

How do I know if it’s RSV or COVID-19?

RSV and the virus causing COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses and cause similar symptoms. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms or you suspect you may have RSV or COVID-19, see your health care provider to be tested.

When Should I Get Medical Attention?

In most people, an RSV infection will go away on its own in a week or two, and symptoms can be managed with drinking plenty of fluids, getting rest and using over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

However, If you or someone you are caring for has difficulty breathing, high fever, dehydration and worsening symptoms, please call your primary care provider.

To schedule a visit with a North Oaks Primary Care provider, call (985) 236-0526 or request an appointment at