Minimizing RSV this Winter
By Amber Ford
With the flu and cold season officially underway, health officials across the country are showing increased concern over Respiratory Syncytial Virus, more commonly known as RSV. According to the Center for Disease Control, RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While the average individual will recover from RSV within one to two weeks, serious illness and side effects can be seen in infants, small children and older adults.
Individuals infected with RSV usually display symptoms similar to the common cold and flu. Runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing are all symptoms that those infected can expect to experience within four to six days after the initial infection. Unlike the common cold and the flu, one of the more unique attributes of RSV is that many of the symptoms do not all occur at once. According to the CDC, the symptoms can come in waves and can be more severe in infants and older adults.
While many individuals who become sick with RSV have a relatively low percentage rate of serious health problems and hospitalization, the CDC has seen an uptick in hospitalizations from serious side effects with infants and older adults as a result of RSV. Bronchiolitis (an inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) and pneumonia (an infection of the lungs) are two of the more serious side effects of RSV.
Like other common respiratory illnesses, RSV is easily transferable. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, virus droplets can spread into the eyes, nose or mouth. According to the CDC, those infected with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days and may be contagious a day or two before they start to exhibit any signs of illness. The CDC also notes there are defenses against RSV and they encourage those demographics who are at a higher risk to adhere to preventative measures. RSV vaccines are available and the CDC even recommends pregnant women gett vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of RSV to their unborn child. The CDC also recommends adults over the age of 60 receive the RSV vaccine in order to protect themselves against serious complications from RSV.
While the vaccine may not be for every age group or demographic, the CDC also encourages the general population to take precautions during cold and flu seasons. Staying home when sick, covering your mouth and nose during coughs and sneezing and constant hand washing are all methods of prevention, according to the CDC. As with any other type of illness, remaining vigilant and aware of those who may be ill around you is also key when preventing the spread of RSV.