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Questions about RSV?

An RSV Fact Sheet from the Oklahoma Dept of Health

Public Health
Fact Sheet

What is respiratory syncytial virus?
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory illness of childhood. RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia
and of inflammation of small airways of the lungs in infants and children under one year of age. In fact by age two, most
children will have had RSV.

Who can get RSV?
Anyone can get RSV but infection is most commonly found in children under two years of age. It is the number one cause of
pneumonia and lower respiratory infections in children under the age of 1 year of age and a substantial cause of illness as well
as death in older adults

What are the symptoms of RSV  infection?
Symptoms for most people are mild and very hard to tell the difference from those caused by the common cold such as fever,
runny nose, cough, and sore throat. Chills, headache, general aching, fatigue or lack of appetite may also occur. Between
25% to 40% of infants and children develop pneumonia. Generally when adults are infected with RSV, the infection either
produces mild, cold-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Most adults have been exposed to RSV many different times in their
lives but are still able to be infected by RSV. For the very young, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions symptoms can
be more severe and including wheezing, shortness of breath, pneumonia and sometimes death.

How are people infected with RSV?
People are infected with RSV by breathing in virus particles spread into the air when an infected person the coughs or sneezes.
Less often, people get a RSV infection from an infected person that does not wash their hands or use an alcohol based-hand
gel with at least 60% alcohol after coughing or sneezing into them. In this way, the virus can be transferred from an infected
persons’ hands by shaking hands, touching contaminated surfaces and a healthy person touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

When is RSV  Season?
RSV season starts anytime during the late fall or winter and continues into the spring much like the flu.

Can RSV  be treated?
For children with mild disease, no specific treatment is necessary other than the treatment of symptoms. People with severe
disease may require oxygen therapy and respiratory medications for hospitalized people. For most people, treatment includes
plenty of rest, fluids, and fever reducing medications. Children who are very ill should not be treated with aspirin for a fever.
Aspirin use has been associated with Reye Syndrome when given during certain viral illnesses.

Should I stay home from work or school, or keep my child out of child care with an RSV infection?
To prevent the spread of illness, adults and children should stay home from work, school, and/or day care with a fever, or upper
respiratory symptoms such as a cough.

What can be done to control or prevent RSV?
Unfortunately there is no vaccine to protect against RSV. Palivizumab and Respiratory Virus Immune Globulin Intravenous
(RSV-IGIV) are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for use in preventing severe RSV in high-risk infants, children
younger than 24 months with chronic lung disease, and certain preterm infants.

What other ways can prevent or control RSV ?
Good hygiene habits prevent and reduce the transmission of RSV by:
–covering your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when sneezing or coughing
–disposing of tissues properly
–washing hands frequently
–using alcohol-based hand sanitizers if hands are not visibly soiled
When sick with a fever and cough:
• stay home from work, school, church, or other daily activities outside of the home
• avoid other crowded areas or events like shopping malls or sports arenas
• do not visit nursing homes, hospitals, or other long-term care facilities
• do not visit people at increased risk for severe complications

OSDH 2/09
For further information call or visit us on the World Wide Web
Acute Disease Service
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Phone (405) 271-4060