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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is a common respiratory illness that can affect persons of any age. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants and young children under 2 years of age. RSV can be especially serious in infants who were born prematurely or those with heart, lung or immune system problems. Outbreaks of RSV occur almost every year during winter and early spring. Spread in child care centers, among both children and adults, is common.

What causes RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

How is RSV spread?

By direct contact with contaminated hands, or close contact through droplets, which are small particles of fluid that are expelled from the nose and mouth during sneezing and coughing. The virus can live on hands for 30 minutes or more and on environmental surfaces for several hours.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Fever, cough, wheezing, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing. Very young infants sometimes have tiredness, irritability, a loss of appetite and trouble breathing, with few other respiratory signs 

How long is it contagious?

The virus is usually shed for three to eight days, although some infants can spread RSV for as long as three to four weeks

How can I prevent infection?

  1. Cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
  2. Dispose of any tissue or items soiled with discharge from the mouth or nose in a waste container.
  3. Frequent, careful hand washing by child care staff, children and household members.
  4. Minimize contact with respiratory secretions, such as saliva or nasal mucus.
  5. Clean, rinse with clean water, then sanitize mouthed toys at least daily and when soiled.

Note: Do not give aspirin to a child under 18 years of age. There is a risk of developing Reye syndrome (a serious condition which can cause death) when children or adolescents take aspirin.


For more information, please call the Northern Kentucky Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Revised November 2014