What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common, contagious virus that usually causes mild symptoms. In older adults and adults with certain underlying conditions, RSV can cause severe infections.

Even the best-laid plans could be cut short by RSV. While you may not have heard of it yet, RSV is not a new virus and may be more of a health concern than you think—even if you’re healthy. If you’re aged 60 or over, you can get RSV.

But don’t worry, by coming here you’ve taken a savvy first step toward learning about RSV so you can be informed. Let’s dive in.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Symptoms of RSV can range from mild to severe and can last up to 2 weeks. RSV can cause severe symptoms in older adults.


  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny Nose
  • Congestion
  • Headache
  • Tiredness

How does RSV spread?

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


RSV and the seasons

Is there a time of the year in which RSV infections occur more frequently, as is the case with other common respiratory infections? Yes and no. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV cases in most regions of the US have historically risen during the fall (from mid-September to mid-November) and peaked in the winter (from late December to mid-February). However, in 2021, RSV cases began to rise in the southern region of the US in the spring months and peaked in July.

Can RSV lead to pneumonia?

Yes. Although RSV infection is usually mild, it can sometimes lead to pneumonia or other complications.

Did you know? People can get RSV multiple times throughout their lives. RSV can be serious for older adults.

Discover Debbie’s RSV story

Learn what happened when Debbie was diagnosed with RSV.

“When the ER doctor told me I had RSV, the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘But I’m an adult!’ I had no idea that an adult could get RSV.”
-Debbie, RSV survivor

RSV infection can be serious. Fortunately, vaccination is available. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about vaccination and other ways to protect yourself and others from RSV.