Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection (2023)

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About Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in New York State – November 2022

Just like flu and COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infection typically spreads during the fall and winter months. A common respiratory virus that can be especially harmful to very young children, older adults, or those born preterm or with underlying lung conditions, it's important for New Yorkers, parents, and guardians to learn about preventing RSV spread, managing symptoms and care, and how to protect loved ones at the greatest risk of getting very ill.

While RSV is not a virus that is reported to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) at the individual level (as is done for COVID-19), NYSDOH does work to ensure that the State is aware of any outbreaks happening in New York, which are investigated by local health departments. At this time, no outbreaks of RSV have been reported.

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is a common respiratory illness caused by a virus. Anyone can be infected, but RSV most often causes serious illness in infants and very young children. The virus can also cause serious illness in older adults or those with a weakened immune system. Much like other respiratory viruses, RSV infections typically occur during the fall and winter.

(Video) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

How does RSV spread?

RSV is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze. RSV can also spread through dried respiratory secretions on bedclothes and similar items. RSV can remain on hard surfaces for several hours and on skin for shorter amounts of time.

What are RSV symptoms?

Typical symptoms resemble the common cold. However, RSV infection can also result in pneumonia, especially in the very young, the very old or those with weakened immune systems. However, mild or unnoticeable illness may occur.

Symptoms generally begin four to six days after exposure. Symptoms generally develop slowly over a period of several days. The contagious period is usually less than 10 days after symptoms begin, but occasionally is longer. Symptoms, particularly a cough, may persist for a few days to a number of weeks.

How is RSV diagnosed?

RSV is diagnosed by a pediatrician/health care provider. It is usually identified from the appearance of typical symptoms. The use of specific laboratory tests is often limited to cases of severe illness and to special outbreak investigations.

(Video) What is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and what are its symptoms? | Boston Children's Hospital

If my child or I have symptoms consistent with RSV, what should I do?

If you or your child have symptoms consistent with RSV, or any respiratory illness, contact a health care provider right away who can help you with diagnosis and care. While sick, stay home from school or work to prevent spreading the illness.

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). This medication is a monoclonal antibody recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to be administered to high-risk infants and young children likely to benefit from immunoprophylaxis based on gestational age and certain underlying medical conditions. It is given in monthly intramuscular injections during the RSV season, which generally occurs during fall, winter, and spring in most locations in the United States.

If my child or I do catch RSV, what care is available?

If you or your child have symptoms consistent with RSV, reach out to a health care provider right away, especially if symptoms are severe. A health care provider will advise on diagnostics and care, but there are steps New Yorkers can take to relieve symptoms. According to CDC:

  • Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Never give aspirin to children.)
  • Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.

How can I prevent RSV?

To prevent RSV and other respiratory viruses that circulate during the fall and winter, including COVID-19 and flu, adults, parents, and guardians should make sure they and their children:

(Video) WVU Medicine Tuesday Talks: Respiratory Syncytial Virus - RSV

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 shots and receive an updated booster as soon as eligible.
  • Get an annual flu shot.
  • Teach children to cough and sneeze into a tissue or into their elbows rather than their hands.
  • Practice good hand hygiene, and keep frequently touched surfaces (tables, utensils, doorknobs) clean.
  • Stay home from work or school when sick, until symptoms subside.
  • If you have very young children or elderly adults at home, including a child who was born 29 weeks or earlier or a child or adult with congenial lung disease, try to keep them isolated from family members who develop respiratory viruses or symptoms.
  • Keep social distancing in mind, which can aid in reducing spread.
  • Ventilate indoors or keep windows open for air circulation when and as possible.
  • Consider wearing a mask when indoors or in crowded settings. This may be important for parents, guardians, siblings, and other friends/family members who may live with newborns, very young children, or elderly who are at the highest risk, and are looking to take precautionary measures.

Find a nearby location for your flu shot here or your COVID-19 shot here to make sure you, your children, and loved ones have protection against both flu and COVID-19.

Is there a vaccine available to prevent and protect against RSV?

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine yet to prevent RSV infection, but scientists are working to develop one. According to CDC, there is a medicine that can help protect some babies at the highest risk for severe RSV disease. Health care providers usually give this medicine (called palivizumab or Synagis) to premature infants and young children with certain heart and lung conditions as a series of monthly shots during RSV season. Parents or guardians who are concerned about their child's risk for severe RSV infection should talk to their child's healthcare provider.

Are cases of RSV reported to NYSDOH?

Individual cases of RSV are not currently reported to NYSDOH. Outbreaks of RSV would be investigated by local health departments and reported to the Department. At this time, the Department has no such reports.

Where can I find information about RSV cases in New York?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks some cases of RSV at the State level, which New Yorkers can view here. This data is based on participating laboratories in New York who report the total number of RSV tests performed that week, and the number of those tests that were positive, to CDC. Because reporting delays may be expected for some laboratories, data shown for the most recent weeks, in particular the most recent two weeks, may be less complete than others. Each point on CDC's trend graphs display the average number of RSV tests that were performed, and the average percent of those that were positive from three adjacent weeks: the specified week, and the weeks preceding and following it. This is also known as a centered 3-week moving average. CDC's RSV detection graphs display the 5 week moving average (average of the 4 previous and current weeks) in accordance with the recommendations for assessing RSV trends by detections.

(Video) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Signs, Symptoms and How to Prevent It

CDC state-level trends are only displayed when two or more labs report RSV testing data for at least 36 of the prior 52 weeks presented by diagnostic method. If data for a state are too sparse to display during a particular week, CDC recommends viewing the trends at the HHS Region or Census Division level that contains the state of interest.

The Department of Health produced three videos to be shared on social media: A short clip and a longer version geared toward parents; and a version aimed specifically at health care providers.

Additional Resources:




Is RSV worse than COVID? ›

Coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are two kinds of respiratory illnesses that have some similar symptoms. So far, the new coronavirus appears to be more dangerous for adults, especially older ones.

How bad is respiratory syncytial virus infection? ›

RSV can cause more serious health problems

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.

Is respiratory syncytial virus RSV contagious? ›

People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days and may become contagious a day or two before they start showing signs of illness. However, some infants, and people with weakened immune systems, can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.

Does RSV go away on its own? ›

Mild RSV symptoms are similar to the common cold and don't require treatment from a healthcare provider. RSV usually goes away on its own within one to two weeks.

Who is RSV worst for? ›

RSV can cause severe infection in some people, including babies 12 months and younger (infants), especially premature infants, older adults, people with heart and lung disease, or anyone with a weak immune system (immunocompromised).

How long does RSV last in adults? ›

RSV symptoms typically last from two to eight days though they can last longer, especially when they lead to other serious conditions such as: A worsening of your asthma or COPD symptoms.

How contagious is RSV to adults? ›

Like other respiratory infections, RSV is highly contagious and spreads via sneezing, coughing — even kissing. The airborne virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth, says the Cleveland Clinic. The virus can also spread to people who touch contaminated surfaces or objects and then touch their face.

How do you treat RSV at home? ›

Lifestyle and home remedies
  1. Create moist air to breathe. Keep the room warm but not overheated. ...
  2. Drink fluids. Continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your infant as you would normally. ...
  3. Try saline nasal drops. ...
  4. Use over-the-counter pain relievers. ...
  5. Stay away from cigarette smoke.
Jan 9, 2021

What happens when adults get RSV? ›

When an adult gets RSV infection, they typically have mild cold-like symptoms, but some may develop a lung infection or pneumonia. RSV can sometimes also lead to worsening of serious conditions such as: Asthma. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a chronic disease of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe.

Should I quarantine if I have RSV? ›

Most people with RSV remain contagious for 3 to 8 days. Young infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for weeks. People can be contagious even if they don't have a fever or any other RSV symptoms. If you have RSV, stay home as much as possible until you're no longer contagious.

Is RSV only spread by kissing? ›

RSV is spread through contact with contaminated respiratory droplets. Kissing, sharing drinks, or transferring things from mouth to mouth can transmit RSV. Washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact when you are sick will decrease the spread and help protect our littlest family members.

What color is snot with RSV? ›

Call your child's health care provider if your child: seems sick, shows signs of RSV and is less than 6 months of age or at high risk. has thick mucus from the nose or mouth that is yellow, green or gray.

Should I stay home with RSV? ›

Similar to precautions someone would take if they had the flu or COVID-19, people with RSV are contagious and should stay home and away from other people to avoid spreading the virus. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands as this is how germs spread.

What are the first signs of RSV? ›

Initial signs of RSV are similar to mild cold symptoms, including congestion, runny nose, fever, cough and sore throat. Very young infants may be irritable, fatigued and have breathing difficulties. Normally these symptoms will clear up on their own in a few days.

What helps RSV go away? ›

Mild RSV infections will go away in a week or two without treatment. You can use over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers to manage your symptoms. Check with your doctor if you are not sure if an over-the-counter product is safe to give to your child.

On what day is RSV the worst? ›

RSV symptoms are typically at their worst on days 3 through 5 of illness. Fortunately, almost all children recover from an RSV infection on their own.

What does RSV cough sound like? ›

Children with RSV typically have two to four days of upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as fever and runny nose/congestion. These are then followed by lower respiratory tract symptoms, like increasing wheezing cough that sounds wet and forceful with increased work breathing.

Can adults get RSV from a child? ›

Unfortunately, yes. "Adults can absolutely get RSV from kids," Dr. Fisher said.

What does RSV feel like in adults? ›

What are the symptoms of RSV in adults? Typical symptoms include a cough, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, headache, mild fevers, and fatigue.

Is RSV worse at night? ›

The child may also have a hoarse cough and a very congested rattling in the chest, which often worsens during the night. Depending upon the severity of the symptoms and the condition of your child, you may call your pediatrician for advice.

Does RSV leave permanent damage? ›

Can RSV cause permanent damage in adults? Most people with RSV infection recover fully, even without treatment. But in some cases, RSV may cause damage to your lungs, airways, or heart that is long lasting or permanent.

What type of isolation for RSV? ›

To prevent nosocomial spread, infants and young children with suspected RSV infection should be placed on contact isolation.

How do you beat RSV fast? ›

How to treat RSV at home
  1. Clear up congestion. For the little ones who can't (or won't) blow their noses, put a drop or two of nasal saline in each nostril and use a suction device like a bulb syringe to pull out the discharge. ...
  2. Pick up steam. ...
  3. Let honey help. ...
  4. Relieve pain. ...
  5. Stay hydrated.
Nov 10, 2022

How do you stop RSV from spreading? ›

RSV Prevention
  1. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  3. Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others.

How can you prevent RSV from turning into pneumonia? ›

What you should do if your child is at high risk for severe RSV infection
  1. Wash your hands often. ...
  2. Keep your hands off your face. ...
  3. Avoid close contact with sick people. ...
  4. Cover your coughs and sneezes. ...
  5. Clean and disinfect surfaces. ...
  6. Stay home when you are sick.

Is there a test for RSV in adults? ›

Healthcare providers should use highly sensitive rRT-PCR assays when testing older children and adults for RSV. rRT-PCR assays are now commercially available for RSV.

How long does RSV test stay positive? ›

Most RSV infections will resolve within 1 or 2 weeks. People can be re-infected with different strains of RSV from year to year, although subsequent infections tend to be less severe than the first/primary infection.

Do you have to stay out of school with RSV? ›

If they have RSV or even if a health care provider suspects it is RSV even with no testing done, children can go back to school or daycare once they are starting to feel better and they have no fever for 24 hours.

Can you get RSV from a hug? ›

It is easy to catch RSV. This is a very common virus and is spread by any physical contact – such as touching, kissing, and shaking hands – with an infected person. The germs are also spread through the air by sneezing or coughing.

Is post nasal drip part of RSV? ›

Common symptoms of mild RSV that develop in the first days after infection include: Cough that may develop into wheezing (breathing that creates a sound different from normal breathing) Runny nose, post-nasal drip and sore throat.

How can I tell if I have Covid or RSV? ›

Since the symptoms are so similar, the best way to accurately determine whether you have COVID-19 or the flu is to get tested. The COVID-19, Flu, RSV combined test is an option if you would like to determine what type of infection you have.

Does your throat hurt with RSV? ›

In adults and older children, typical RSV symptoms include a low-grade fever, congested or runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and occasionally wheezing.

Is COVID and RSV the same thing? ›

The flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all highly contagious respiratory infections caused by viruses: The flu by influenza virus, COVID-19 by SARS-CoV-2 virus, and RSV by respiratory syncytial virus. It is possible for a person to be infected with multiple viruses at the same time.

When is RSV the scariest? ›

RSV is most dangerous in newborns and infants younger than 6 months of age. That's because it causes a substantial amount of inflammation in the airways and extra mucus production in both the nasal and lung airways. These blockages can make it very difficult to breath, particularly in young infants with tiny airways.

How long does RSV last? ›

Typically, RSV causes a cold, which may be followed by bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Symptoms generally last an average of 5-7 days.

Is respiratory syncytial virus related to COVID? ›

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory related to increased respiratory infections from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and COVID-195. RSV is one of the leading causes of lower respiratory illnesses that affects newborns, young children, and the elderly.


1. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
(North Mississippi Medical Center)
2. Why are pediatric respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases on the rise? | Boston Children's Hospital
(Boston Children's Hospital)
3. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
(Hackensack Meridian Pascack Valley Medical Center)
4. Doctor's Note: Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
(Loyola Medicine)
5. Colds and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Babies and Toddlers: What Is Bronchiolitis?
(The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)
6. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection: The Causes and Diagnosis | Merck Manual Quick Facts
(Merck Manuals)
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