RSV is a highly contagious, seasonal viral pathogen that can affect anyone. RSV can be very serious, especially in older adults, young children, people with underlying health conditions, and people who have compromised immune systems. Infection can lead to severe diseases, including bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia in these vulnerable groups.
What are the symptoms?
In the vast majority of cases, RSV is a mild illness, but in some people, including the vulnerable groups above, it can be fatal. Symptoms of RSV are very similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza and COVID-19.
How prevalent is RSV? Who is at risk?
RSV affects an estimated 64 million people globally and causes approx. 160,000 deaths each year.
In a typical year, 3-7% of adults over 60 and 4-10% of high-risk adults experience RSV.
Complications can exacerbate underlying conditions: up to 50% of high-risk adults with symptomatic RSV need to visit a doctor.
Adults who are immunocompromised may experience worse clinical outcomes if infected with RSV, compared to healthy adults who are infected. Severe RSV-associated bronchiolitis in childhood can increase the risk of developing asthma.
How can RSV be prevented?
Like other infectious respiratory diseases, RSV is highly contagious. Therefore, the most effective means of prevention are similar to those you’d use to prevent catching COVID-19.
- Washing hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds
- Avoiding crowded places
- Avoiding close contact with infected people
- Avoiding sharing food and utensils that may have come into contact with the virus
There is currently no vaccine available for RSV, so prevention through careful hygiene and social practices are extremely important to stop others getting sick.