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RSV causes respiratory illness mainly in children, but can infect people of all ages. In babies, young children, and adults with weakened immune systems, RSV may cause lower respiratory infection and pneumonia, and the infection may be very serious. In older children and healthy adults, the infection resembles the common cold. Most people are infected by age 2.
RSV is spread by respiratory droplets from close contact with infected persons or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when RSV contacts the eyes, mouth, or nose, and possibly through inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough.
In babies and young children, symptoms include fever, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia. RSV symptoms in older children and adults include moderate-to-severe cold-like symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough, and sometimes wheezing. Symptoms generally appear about 2-8 days after infection.
See your health care provider. Your health care provider may review your symptoms and take a swab specimen of your throat or the back of your nose for testing at a laboratory.
For mild disease, no specific treatment is necessary other than the treatment of symptoms (pain reliever, fever reducer). Patients with severe disease may require oxygen therapy or hospitalization. Ribavirin aerosol may be used in the treatment of some patients with severe disease. Your health care provider can recommend the best type of treatment.
RSV outbreaks generally occur during the winter months (Nov. - April).
For additional information on RSV, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site at:
Last reviewed by ISDH October 27, 2009