Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a virus that causes an infection of the respiratory tract. In NSW, infections typically peak in late autumn or winter.
RSV can occur in children and adults. It causes a cold with runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, fever and headache, and it can also cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Almost all children will be infected by age 3. Recovery from RSV confers some immunity to reinfection, but it is not long-lasting.
What are the symptoms of RSV?
For most people, RSV infection causes mild respiratory illness. Symptoms usually start about 5 days after exposure and get worse for the first 3 to 4 days of illness before getting better. Symptoms may include:
Ear infection (less common).
RSV can also cause wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Babies under one year are more likely to have breathing problems such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia. They may be restless and have difficulty eating.
Young children may experience wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Older children and adults may also have breathing problems, especially if they have chronic heart, lung, or immune problems. Some infants, children, and older adults may need hospitalization to help them breathe or rehydrate them.
For symptom management in children and adults, see Monitoring for RSV Symptoms below.
How is RSV spread?
RSV is highly contagious. it can pass
When someone coughs or sneezes, the droplets contain the virus.
Touching objects and surfaces such as doorknobs or toys, and hands contaminated by droplets, then touching your nose or eyes.
A person is usually contagious for 3-8 days after symptoms start, but this can be longer in people with weakened immune systems.
Who is at risk for RSV infection?
RSV can affect anyone, but usually causes mild infections.
Some babies need hospitalization to help them breathe and rehydrate, especially if they have lung, heart, or immune problems or were born prematurely.
Children with viral wheeze or asthma may have symptoms caused by RSV.
Older adults, especially those with chronic heart or lung disease or a weakened immune system, may also become ill with RSV.
How to prevent RSV?
There is currently no vaccine available for RSV.
The best way to help stop the spread of the virus is for everyone to practice good hygiene at all times, especially if you have flu-like symptoms:
If you are not feeling well, please stay home
Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
wear a mask in crowded places, or if you are visiting a high-risk setting with vulnerable people, such as an aged care facility or hospital
Avoid contact with high-risk groups, such as infants, older adults, and those who are immunocompromised, until you feel better.
The virus can live on a surface or object for about 4 to 7 hours. Therefore, it is important to:
Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water or use hand sanitizer
Avoid sharing cups and utensils that you eat with
Regularly clean surfaces and items that may be contaminated by droplets with household cleaners
Wash toys shared by children with warm water and detergent at the end of the day or after the toy has been sneezing or mouthing on. Let it dry in the sun.
Residential aged care facilities should:
Quarantine or restrict group activities of infected residents until their symptoms resolve
Increased cleaning around touch surfaces
Monitor other residents for respiratory symptoms.
How is RSV diagnosed?
Most children with coughs, colds, and breathing problems can be diagnosed by their doctors. Viruses can be identified by the Easysweet Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Rapid Test.
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