Can adults get RSV? - Institute for Respiratory Health

Can adults get RSV?

Friday, November 11, 2022 | News

This RSV Awareness Week, 8-12 November, the Institute for Respiratory Health is creating awareness about Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

Known as a highly contagious seasonal virus that affects infants and toddlers, adults should know that they can become severely ill from the bug.

The risks are particularly high for adults over 65 and those who have chronic lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes, said Professor Yuben Moodley from the Institute.

“One of the reasons why this group is at higher risk is because of their existing underlying disease – the lungs and immune system can already be compromised and less able to handle the stress associated with the infection,” Professor Moodley said.

Severe infection can lead to complications like pneumonia, worsening of asthma and also worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis) as well as heart failure.

Up to one in six older adults infected with RSV will require hospitalisation. Globally, RSV affects an estimated 64 million people and causes 160,000 deaths each year.

“The season for RSV is winter through to early spring,” Professor Moodley said.

“Unlike other viruses, once you have had RSV you do not develop immunity to RSV. This means you can catch it again – even in the same season.

“When less severe, symptoms are similar to the common cold including a runny nose, cough, sore throat, congestion, headache, mild fevers and fatigue.

“The best remedies to fight it include rest, fluids, saline nasal drops or sprays and over-the-counter pain relievers.

“If you are feeling particularly unwell you should go and see your doctor.”

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