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Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) Prevention and Treatment

What Is Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV)?

RSV is a very contagious virus that spreads during the fall and winter.

It often causes symptoms much like a bad cold, such as:

  • Cough.
  • Mild sore throat.
  • Earache.
  • Stuffy or runny nose.

Most people who get RSV can recover at home.

RSV can be more serious for older adults and children younger than 6 months old. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it's the leading cause of hospitalization among infants in the U.S.

While RSV mostly causes cold-like symptoms, it can cause a more serious infection in the lower airways, including pneumonia.

You should seek medical care if you have:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Uncontrollable cough.
  • Dehydration.

What Are the Treatment Options for RSV?

RSV often goes away on its own. When someone with RSV is otherwise healthy, symptoms should get better in a week or two.

To help ease RSV symptoms, you can:

  • Rest.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Take an over-the-counter drug for pain and fever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be safe with medicines. Always read and follow all instructions on the label.

Contact your child's doctor if they have RSV symptoms.

RSV Vaccine for Older Adults

Older adults, especially those with immune system or other health condtions, are more likely to have complications of RSV infection.

Adults age 60 and older can receive Abrysvo™, the FDA-approved RSV vaccine.

UPMC urges this age group to get the vaccine this RSV season to protect you from severe illness. Clinical trials have shown an 80% to 90% reduction in serious complications in the first season after receiving the vaccine.

Side effects are often mild and like those of other vaccines.

Talk with your health care provider about your risk for RSV and the potential benefits of getting the vaccine.

Medicare Part D covers Abrysvo. This means, in some cases, they may only cover getting the vaccine at a pharmacy and not a doctor’s office.

Talk with your insurance plan if you’re unsure about your coverage.

Most UPMC pharmacies and many community pharmacies offer Abrysvo. Call ahead before you go to make sure they have supply.

Protecting Young Children from RSV

You can take precautions to protect your child from RSV complications. The FDA approved a monoclonal antibody to prevent RSV in infants not already protected by the mother’s vaccine. Your newborn, or children up to 2 years old, can receive a monoclonal antibody, nirsevimab-alip (Beyfortus™), to protect them against RSV.

This monoclonal antibody may be in short supply nationwide. Please check with your provider to see if nirsevimab-alip (Beyfortus) is available.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, your provider may no longer be recommending and administering the RSV vaccine (Abrysvo™) for pregnant people as of February 2024.

Please check with your provider about the RSV vaccine.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you, a oved one, or child has:

  • Severe trouble breathing.
  • Stopped breathing.