Michigan Association of Health Plans

What to know about RSV and how to protect against the virus

This story is from Priority Health. Read more here.

Along with the flu and COVID-19, RSV is causing health concerns and a surge in hospitalizations this year.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a virus that can lead to respiratory illness, like bronchiolitis and pneumonia. According to the CDC, an estimated 58,000 – 80,000 children younger than five years old are hospitalized with RSV infections. Those who get a RSV infection usually show symptoms within four to six days and, in some cases, can go from mild symptoms to hospitalization in less than a week. While most recover in a week or two, RSV is especially serious for infants under six months old. Many of the same measures we take to avoid the flu or COVID-19 can be used to fend off RSV.

Here are five preventive steps you can take to stop the spread of RSV:

1. Cough and sneeze into a tissue, not your hands
RSV symptoms include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and wheezing. It can also be spread through droplets containing the virus when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward.

2. Wash your hands with soap and water
Washing your hands and your children’s hands for at least 20 seconds will help protect against RSV and other germs. If water and soap are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands.

3. Avoid close contact
People infected with RSV may become contagious a few days before they start showing symptoms. This virus is often spread through direct contact, so avoid kissing, hugging, sharing cups and eating utensils, and shaking hands.

4. Sanitize frequently touched surfaces
Disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, as the virus can live for hours on hard surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, cell phones, toys or crib rails. Touching your eyes, nose or mouth after touching a contaminated object increases your chance of catching RSV.

5. Try to limit time spent in a childcare center or other potentially contagious settings
Nearly every child will get RSV by their second birthday. RSV is especially prevalent beginning in the fall and into the spring. If your infant or young child is high-risk, try to limit the amount of time they spend in daycare or at playgroups. And if you or your child show any cold-like symptoms, stay home from work, school, stores and other public areas to prevent spreading RSV.

While most people who catch RSV report mild symptoms and a quick recovery, some infants and even older adults are at a greater risk for severe RSV infections. There is no vaccine against RSV yet, but scientists are working hard to develop one. If you are concerned about your child’s risk for severe RSV infection, talk to their healthcare provider. Take extra care and follow these steps to protect against RSV and other illnesses, and keep your and your loved ones healthy.

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