How does RSV spread?
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a contagious virus that primarily spreads through respiratory secretions, such as mucus or saliva, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also spread through direct contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands or touching contaminated surfaces.
RSV can survive on surfaces for several hours and on hands for up to 30 minutes, making it easy to transmit the virus from person to person. People can become infected with RSV by touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.
RSV is most contagious during the first few days of illness, when symptoms are most severe. However, people with RSV can continue to spread the virus for up to two weeks, even if they are no longer showing symptoms.
It is important to take precautions to prevent the spread of RSV, especially among high-risk populations, such as infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. This includes washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick people, and staying home if you are sick.
Who is at risk of getting RSV?
Anyone can get infected with RSV, but certain groups of people are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from the virus. These groups include:
Infants and young children: RSV is the most common cause of respiratory illness in infants and young children, especially those under the age of 2. Premature babies and children with certain underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are at an even higher risk of developing severe illness from RSV.
Older adults: RSV can cause severe illness in older adults, especially those over the age of 65. This is because the immune system weakens as we age, making it harder for the body to fight off infections.
People with weakened immune systems: People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or cancer, are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from RSV.
Healthcare workers: Healthcare workers who come into contact with people infected with RSV are at a higher risk of getting the virus themselves.
People with frequent exposure to children: Parents, teachers, and daycare workers who are frequently exposed to young children are at a higher risk of getting RSV.
It is important for people in these high-risk groups to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of RSV and to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of the virus.
Symptoms of RSV in adults
RSV symptoms in adults can vary from mild to severe, with some people not showing any symptoms at all. Common symptoms of RSV in adults include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
In severe cases, RSV can lead to more serious respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing these complications from RSV.
Symptoms of severe RSV illness in adults may include:
- Severe coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Bluish skin color due to lack of oxygen
If you develop any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Early treatment can help prevent severe complications from RSV.
Prevention and treatment of RSV in adults
There is currently no specific treatment or cure for RSV in adults, but there are steps you can take to prevent the spread of the virus and to alleviate symptoms. These include:
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
- Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops
- Getting plenty of rest and fluids
- Using over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve fever and pain
- Using a humidifier or steam to relieve congestion
If you are at a high risk of developing severe illness from RSV, your doctor may recommend antiviral medications or other treatments to help prevent complications. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to provide supportive care, such as oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation.
Overall, the best way to prevent RSV in adults is to take steps to avoid exposure to the virus and to practice good hygiene habits.
RSV is a highly contagious virus that can cause respiratory illness in people of all ages. While anyone can get infected with RSV, certain groups of people, such as infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from the virus.
Preventing the spread of RSV requires taking simple steps, such as washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick people, and covering your coughs and sneezes. If you develop symptoms of RSV, it is important to seek medical attention right away, especially if you are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from the virus.
While there is currently no specific treatment for RSV in adults, there are ways to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications. By practicing good hygiene habits and taking care of yourself, you can help protect yourself and others from RSV.