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RSV—infants and children are at risk1

Virtually every child will get an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old2

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common and highly contagious virus that may affect and compromise the lungs and breathing passages of infants, children, and adults. RSV is a significant cause of respiratory illness ranging from mild to severe that can lead to hospitalization.1

RSV is the most common viral cause of bronchiolitis in infants and young children and may result in respiratory failure and mortality3,4
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In 2019, it was estimated that there were 3.6 million global hospital admissions for
RSV-associated ALRI in children 5 years and younger.5

Approximately 1 in 28 deaths of infants aged 28 days to 6 months can be attributed to RSV5*

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RSV disease burden

A recent systematic review of 481 studies across 58 countries estimated that, in 2019, children 5 years and younger with an RSV infection accounted for5:

  • 33 million RSV-associated acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) episodes
  • 3.6 million hospitalizations due to RSV-associated ALRI
  • 26,300 RSV-associated ALRI in-hospital deaths
  • 1 in every 50 deaths of children 5 years and younger

RSV is easily transmittable to infants and children.1,6,7

RSV can spread to infants and children when1:

  • They have close contact with sick people
  • They get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in their eyes, nose, or mouth
  • They touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, table, or toy, and then touch their own face before washing their hands

RSV can survive on contaminated surfaces for prolonged periods, including skin (30 minutes), fabric (2 hours), gloves (5 hours), and furniture (7 hours).1

People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. 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.7


RSV symptoms vary and may be similar to symptoms from other respiratory infections. RSV symptoms may range from mild and moderate to severe.1,4,8

Early Symptoms

At the onset, RSV may not be severe for infants and young children. However, it can become more severe in just a few days, with early symptoms that may include1,4:

RSV in infants under 6 months

Infants this young with RSV almost always show one or more of the following symptoms with or without fever4,7,8:

Severe RSV

Those infected with RSV may recover in a week or two.7 However, some infants and young children may suffer more severe RSV symptoms that lead to bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and maybe even hospitalization.1,2

RSV can be especially serious or deadly in infants and children because it is associated with bronchiolitis that can lead to5,8,9:

Therapy and prevention

Despite the burden of disease due to RSV, current treatment of RSV illness is supportive

There are simple steps that your patients can take to reduce the transmission of RSV at home, at school, or in the workplace1:

Data from a systematic analysis of 481 studies between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2020 of children 60 months and younger with RSV as primary infection with ALRI. The study provides age-stratified estimates of RSV ALRI incidence, hospitalization, and in-hospital mortality both globally and regionally.5

RSV: Respiratory syncytial virus
TDAP: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis

ALRI: Acute lower respiratory infections

ReferencesReferences:Carvajal JJ, Avellaneda AM, Salazar-Ardiles C, Maya JE, Kalergis AM, Lay MK. Host components contributing to respiratory syncytial virus pathogenesis. Front Immunol. 2019;10:2152.Walsh EE, Hall CB. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In: Bennet JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Elsevier; 2015:1948-1960.UK Health Security Agency. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): symptoms, transmission, prevention, treatment. Updated September 16, 2021. Available at: Accessed on 24 May 2024.Piedimonte G, Perez MK. Respiratory syncytial virus infection and bronchiolitis [published correction appears in Pediatr Rev. 2015;36(2):85]. Pediatr Rev. 2014;35(12):519-530.Li Y, Wang X, Blau DM, et al. Global, regional, and national disease burden estimates of acute lower respiratory infections due to respiratory syncytial virus in children younger than 5 years in 2019: a systematic analysis. Lancet. 2022;399(10340):2047-2064.French CE, McKenzie BC, Coope C, et al. Risk of nosocomial respiratory syncytial virus infection and effectiveness of control measures to prevent transmission events: a systematic review. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2016;10(4):268-290.National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Respiratory syncytial virus. Updated February 2022. Available at: Accessed on 24 May 2024.Jain H, Schweitzer JW, Justice NA. Respiratory syncytial virus infection. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; November 8, 2022.McNamara PS, Smyth RL. The pathogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus disease in childhood. Br Med Bull. 2002;61:13-28.Hall CB. Nosocomial respiratory syncytial virus infections: the "Cold War" has not ended. Clin Infect Dis. 2000;31(2):590-596.Bergin N, Murtagh J, Philip RK. Maternal vaccination as an essential component of life-course immunization and its contribution to preventive neonatology. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(5):847.Simionescu AA, Streinu-Cercel A, Popescu FD, et al. Comprehensive overview of vaccination during pregnancy in Europe. J Pers Med. 2021;11(11):1196.

Learn more about RSV in older adults.

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