Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection (2023)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection (1)

  • What to Know
  • Provider Information

About Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in New York State – November 2022

Just like flu and COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infection typically spreads during the fall and winter months. A common respiratory virus that can be especially harmful to very young children, older adults, or those born preterm or with underlying lung conditions, it's important for New Yorkers, parents, and guardians to learn about preventing RSV spread, managing symptoms and care, and how to protect loved ones at the greatest risk of getting very ill.

While RSV is not a virus that is reported to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) at the individual level (as is done for COVID-19), NYSDOH does work to ensure that the State is aware of any outbreaks happening in New York, which are investigated by local health departments. At this time, no outbreaks of RSV have been reported.

(Video) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection: The Causes and Diagnosis | Merck Manual Quick Facts

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is a common respiratory illness caused by a virus. Anyone can be infected, but RSV most often causes serious illness in infants and very young children. The virus can also cause serious illness in older adults or those with a weakened immune system. Much like other respiratory viruses, RSV infections typically occur during the fall and winter.

How does RSV spread?

RSV is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze. RSV can also spread through dried respiratory secretions on bedclothes and similar items. RSV can remain on hard surfaces for several hours and on skin for shorter amounts of time.

What are RSV symptoms?

Typical symptoms resemble the common cold. However, RSV infection can also result in pneumonia, especially in the very young, the very old or those with weakened immune systems. However, mild or unnoticeable illness may occur.

Symptoms generally begin four to six days after exposure. Symptoms generally develop slowly over a period of several days. The contagious period is usually less than 10 days after symptoms begin, but occasionally is longer. Symptoms, particularly a cough, may persist for a few days to a number of weeks.

(Video) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

How is RSV diagnosed?

RSV is diagnosed by a pediatrician/health care provider. It is usually identified from the appearance of typical symptoms. The use of specific laboratory tests is often limited to cases of severe illness and to special outbreak investigations.

If my child or I have symptoms consistent with RSV, what should I do?

If you or your child have symptoms consistent with RSV, or any respiratory illness, contact a health care provider right away who can help you with diagnosis and care. While sick, stay home from school or work to prevent spreading the illness.

If your child was born preterm and is at high risk of developing severe infection due to underlying lung conditions, talk to their health care provider about Palivizumab (Synagis). This medication is a monoclonal antibody recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to be administered to high-risk infants and young children likely to benefit from immunoprophylaxis based on gestational age and certain underlying medical conditions. It is given in monthly intramuscular injections during the RSV season, which generally occurs during fall, winter, and spring in most locations in the United States.

If my child or I do catch RSV, what care is available?

If you or your child have symptoms consistent with RSV, reach out to a health care provider right away, especially if symptoms are severe. A health care provider will advise on diagnostics and care, but there are steps New Yorkers can take to relieve symptoms. According to CDC:

(Video) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) | What Is It & What Conditions Does it Cause (ex. Croup)

  • Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Never give aspirin to children.)
  • Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.

How can I prevent RSV?

To prevent RSV and other respiratory viruses that circulate during the fall and winter, including COVID-19 and flu, adults, parents, and guardians should make sure they and their children:

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 shots and receive an updated booster as soon as eligible.
  • Get an annual flu shot.
  • Teach children to cough and sneeze into a tissue or into their elbows rather than their hands.
  • Practice good hand hygiene, and keep frequently touched surfaces (tables, utensils, doorknobs) clean.
  • Stay home from work or school when sick, until symptoms subside.
  • If you have very young children or elderly adults at home, including a child who was born 29 weeks or earlier or a child or adult with congenial lung disease, try to keep them isolated from family members who develop respiratory viruses or symptoms.
  • Keep social distancing in mind, which can aid in reducing spread.
  • Ventilate indoors or keep windows open for air circulation when and as possible.
  • Consider wearing a mask when indoors or in crowded settings. This may be important for parents, guardians, siblings, and other friends/family members who may live with newborns, very young children, or elderly who are at the highest risk, and are looking to take precautionary measures.

Find a nearby location for your flu shot here or your COVID-19 shot here to make sure you, your children, and loved ones have protection against both flu and COVID-19.

Is there a vaccine available to prevent and protect against RSV?

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine yet to prevent RSV infection, but scientists are working to develop one. According to CDC, there is a medicine that can help protect some babies at the highest risk for severe RSV disease. Health care providers usually give this medicine (called palivizumab or Synagis) to premature infants and young children with certain heart and lung conditions as a series of monthly shots during RSV season. Parents or guardians who are concerned about their child's risk for severe RSV infection should talk to their child's healthcare provider.

Are cases of RSV reported to NYSDOH?

Individual cases of RSV are not currently reported to NYSDOH. Outbreaks of RSV would be investigated by local health departments and reported to the Department. At this time, the Department has no such reports.

(Video) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Where can I find information about RSV cases in New York?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks some cases of RSV at the State level, which New Yorkers can view here. This data is based on participating laboratories in New York who report the total number of RSV tests performed that week, and the number of those tests that were positive, to CDC. Because reporting delays may be expected for some laboratories, data shown for the most recent weeks, in particular the most recent two weeks, may be less complete than others. Each point on CDC's trend graphs display the average number of RSV tests that were performed, and the average percent of those that were positive from three adjacent weeks: the specified week, and the weeks preceding and following it. This is also known as a centered 3-week moving average. CDC's RSV detection graphs display the 5 week moving average (average of the 4 previous and current weeks) in accordance with the recommendations for assessing RSV trends by detections.

CDC state-level trends are only displayed when two or more labs report RSV testing data for at least 36 of the prior 52 weeks presented by diagnostic method. If data for a state are too sparse to display during a particular week, CDC recommends viewing the trends at the HHS Region or Census Division level that contains the state of interest.

The Department of Health produced three videos to be shared on social media: A short clip and a longer version geared toward parents; and a version aimed specifically at health care providers.

Additional Resources:



(Video) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) - in 2 mins!


Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection? ›

Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

Is respiratory syncytial virus RSV contagious? ›

How is RSV transmitted? RSV is very contagious. It can spread through the droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or if you touch a contaminated surface, such as counters or doorknobs (where it can live for hours).

What are the symptoms of the RSV virus? ›

What Are the Symptoms of RSV? Initial signs of RSV are similar to mild cold symptoms, including congestion, runny nose, fever, cough and sore throat. Very young infants may be irritable, fatigued and have breathing difficulties. Normally these symptoms will clear up on their own in a few days.

How long does RSV usually last? ›

Three identified groups at high risk for severe RSV include:

RSV symptoms typically last from two to eight days though they can last longer, especially when they lead to other serious conditions such as: A worsening of your asthma or COPD symptoms.

Why is RSV so serious? ›

When an adult gets RSV infection, they typically have mild cold-like symptoms, but some may develop a lung infection or pneumonia. RSV can sometimes also lead to worsening of serious conditions such as: Asthma. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a chronic disease of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe.

Should I quarantine if I have RSV? ›

Don't go to work or school

Remember, adults get RSV, too. And they can spread it to others in their own home. So it's not just kids who need to stay home from school if they're sick — adults need to stay home from work as well. Experts recommend staying home for 8 days from the time you first get sick.

Does RSV need isolation? ›

Stay home from work or school when sick, until symptoms subside. If you have very young children or elderly adults at home, including a child who was born 29 weeks or earlier or a child or adult with congenial lung disease, try to keep them isolated from family members who develop respiratory viruses or symptoms.

How long will you test positive for RSV? ›

RSV A was detectable by RT-PCR as long as 30 days maximum with a mean of 12.8 days, while RSV B tested positive in RT-PCR as long as 10 days with a mean of 5.8 days (Fig. ​ 3).

Is RSV a COVID virus? ›

What is the difference between the flu, COVID-19, and RSV? The flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all highly contagious respiratory infections caused by viruses : The flu by influenza virus, COVID-19 by SARS-CoV-2 virus, and RSV by respiratory syncytial virus.

How do I get rid of RSV? ›

How RSV Is Treated. Mild RSV infections will go away in a week or two without treatment. You can use over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers to manage your symptoms. Check with your doctor if you are not sure if an over-the-counter product is safe to give to your child.

How long should RSV quarantine? ›

People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days and may become contagious a day or two before they start showing signs of illness. However, some infants, and people with weakened immune systems, can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.

Can adults get RSV from a child? ›

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. It's so common that most children have been infected with the virus by age 2. Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus can also infect adults.

How do you treat RSV at home? ›

How to treat RSV at home
  1. Clear up congestion. For the little ones who can't (or won't) blow their noses, put a drop or two of nasal saline in each nostril and use a suction device like a bulb syringe to pull out the discharge. ...
  2. Pick up steam. ...
  3. Let honey help. ...
  4. Relieve pain. ...
  5. Stay hydrated.
Nov 10, 2022

Is RSV deadlier than COVID? ›

So far, the new coronavirus appears to be more dangerous for adults, especially older ones. RSV is riskier for young children, but it can also be serious for older people and those who have other health problems.

What antibiotics treat RSV? ›

Antibiotics aren't used because RSV is a virus and antibiotics are only effective against bacteria. Medication may sometimes be given to help open airways and to improve breathing.

How contagious is RSV to adults? ›

Like other respiratory infections, RSV is highly contagious and spreads via sneezing, coughing — even kissing. The airborne virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Is RSV highly contagious in adults? ›

RSV in Children and Adults. RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a highly contagious, seasonal lung infection. It's a common childhood illness that can affect adults too. Most cases are mild, with cold-like symptoms.

Can parents pass RSV to child? ›

Preventing the Spread of RSV

Adults can get it and pass it to their child. If you have a cold, be careful around your baby. Here are some tips to keep RSV from spreading: Wash your hands often, before touching your baby and before handling food.


1. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) - Clinical Presentation
2. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Not Just a Little Kids’ Virus
(Alliance for Aging Research)
3. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) - Pathophysiology
4. What parents need to know respiratory syncytial virus
5. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Signs, Symptoms and How to Prevent It
(Texas Children’s Hospital)
6. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Can Affect Your Infant - Know the Signs and What to Do
(American Lung Association)
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