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In the News Understanding RSV – Part I

Written by Lisa Jillanza

If you have listened to any medical broadcast over the past few months, then you have certainly heard the letters RSV. But what do you know about RSV? In this two-part article, we hope to provide you with a full understanding of what RSV is, signs, symptoms, treatments and how you can help yourself and those around you from getting RSV.



What does RSV stand for?

Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV is a contagious virus that is usually mild but can severely affect the lungs and respiratory airways.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Symptoms of RSV can range from mild to severe and can last up to two weeks. RSV can cause severe symptoms in older adults. RSV symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headache, and tiredness.

How does RSV spread?

Like some other respiratory infections, a cough or sneeze can easily spread RSV. And while you are typically contagious for 3 to 8 days, some people, especially those with weakened immune systems can be contagious for as long as 4 weeks – even after they stop showing symptoms. 

Can you get RSV more than once?

Yes, people can get RSV multiple times throughout their life. 

How is RSV diagnosed?

Since most cases of RSV are mild, tests are usually not required to diagnose infection. However, depending on your medical history and the time of year, your doctor may obtain a sample with a buccal swab or do a blood test to look for the presence of viruses and check the white blood cell count. In more severe cases and where hospitalization is required, your doctor may perform a chest X-ray or CT scan to check for pulmonary complications.

Continued in Part II…