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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very contagious virus. Fortunately, in most cases, it is not very serious. Symptoms can include fever, runny nose, cough, and sore throat. There is no treatment that kills the virus; therefore, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms as the body fights the infection.

What Is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that causes respiratory infections. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the bronchioles within the lungs) and pneumonia among infants and children under one year of age.

How Common Is RSV?

Up to 126,300 children are hospitalized annually in the United States for bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Annual RSV outbreaks peak in February, and account for one fourth to one third of all pediatric hospitalizations for pneumonia and one half of the hospitalizations for bronchiolitis.

Is It Contagious?

This virus is very contagious. It is believed that by the age of three, almost all children will have had an RSV infection. Fortunately, in most cases, the infection is not serious.
A person is most contagious during the first two to four days of their symptoms.

How Is It Transmitted?

The virus is spread from respiratory secretions, through close contact with infected people, or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when infectious material comes into contact with mucous membranes of the eyes, mouth, or nose, and possibly through the inhalation of droplets generated by a sneeze or cough.
(Click RSV Transmission for more information.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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