10.27.22 – What is RSV?

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. Today let’s talk about an illness that’s spreading and in the news: RSV.

What is RSV?

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. It’s a virus that can affect anyone, but generally it’s most common in infants and young children. Outbreaks tend to occur from October to May, with a peak in January and February. This year, we’re seeing lots of cases now, earlier than usual.

What are the symptoms of an RSV infection? 

Symptoms of RSV are similar to other respiratory infections and include:

  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Poor appetite
  • In infants, irritability or decreased activity may be the only symptoms.

In children younger than two, RSV can cause bronchiolitis or pneumonia which can cause breathing problems. 

Who is likely to get RSV? 

The majority of children hospitalized for an RSV infection are under the age of six months. The elderly, premature infants, people with chronic lung or heart problems, or people with weak immune systems are at higher risk for developing serious illness. Those who are exposed to tobacco or cannabis smoke or vape, attend daycare, live in crowded conditions, or have school-aged siblings could also be at higher risk. 

What do I do if I think anyone in my family has RSV? 

Make sure to drink enough fluids and manage fevers and pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Also, talk with your healthcare provider. If someone has difficulty breathing or is dehydrated, you should seek immediate help.

How can you prevent RSV?

There is no vaccine for RSV, but there are steps that you can take to prevent the spread of RSV, which are the same as for other respiratory illnesses:

  • Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue, sleeve, or elbow
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Stay home if you’re sick

Lastly, make sure to get your flu and updated Covid booster shots.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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