Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a disease that primarily affects infants and children. While more children and infants contract the virus, over 177,000 adults over the age of 65 are hospitalized with severe RSV infection in the U.S. each year. Understanding the impact of RSV in older adults has opened the doors to potential new treatment and prevention options.
What is RSV?As with its name, RSV is a respiratory virus that affects the lungs and breathing passages. Symptoms usually appear 2 to 8 days after exposure and are mild, often mimicking those of the common cold, including:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
Why is RSV Dangerous in Older Adults?RSV infection can spread to the lower respiratory tract, causing pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or bronchiolitis, which is an inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. For several reasons, older adults (especially those 65 and up) are at greater risk for serious complications from RSV. Most are age-related factors such as a decline in immune system function. Most older adults also have decreased respiratory muscle strength and protective mucus levels, which affect the expansion capability of the lungs. Signs and symptoms of severe RSV infection:
- Severe cough
- Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
- Bluish color of the skin due to lack of oxygen