With the winter season in full swing, it’s peak time for flu, COVID-19, and RSV.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.
Most people recover in a week or two. But RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. Latino children also face a “significantly higher burden.”
“[A recent study] found that 59% of the burden of respiratory infections [including RSV] was distributed among Blacks and Hispanics, despite these population groups being ethnic minorities in the US,” MD Newsline reports.
Let’s dive into how RSV can be transmitted, common symptoms, and how you can protect yourself and loved ones from getting infected.
What Are the Symptoms of RSV?
People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected, according to the CDC.
RSV symptoms can include:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
“These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once,” according the CDC.
Most RSV infections go away within a couple weeks. But some cases are more severe.
“RSV can also cause more severe infections such as bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs,” according to the CDC.
Who is at Risk for RSV?
Infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe RSV and need hospitalization, according to the CDC.
Children at greatest risk for severe RSV include:
- Premature infants
- Infants up to 12 months, especially those 6 months and younger
- Children younger than 2 years with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
- Children with weakened immune systems
- Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions
For adults, high risk for severe RSV include:
- Older adults
- Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
- Adults with weakened immune systems
- Adults with certain other underlying medical conditions
- Adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
“Older adults are at greater risk than young adults for serious complications from RSV because immune systems weaken with age,” according to the CDC.
How Can You Prevent the Spread of RSV?
Limiting the spread of RSV is important.
This can be done by cleaning hands often, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands.
The CDC also recommends avoiding close contact with sick people, covering your coughs and sneezes, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and staying at home when sick.
“Avoid close contact with others, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils,” according to the CDC.
How Can You Protect Against RSV?
Immunizations are available to protect older adults and young children from severe RSV.
“CDC has recommended multiple, new immunizations to protect those most at risk of getting very sick with RSV: infants, toddlers, and adults 60 years and older,” according to the CDC.
RSV immunizations are recommended for these groups only:
- Two RSV vaccines (Arexvy by GSK and Abrysvo by Pfizer) have been licensed by FDA and recommended by CDC for adults ages 60 and older, using shared clinical decision-making. “If you are 60 years and older, talk to your healthcare provider to see if RSV vaccination is right for you,” according to the CDC.
- One RSV vaccine (Abrysvo by Pfizer) has been licensed and recommended during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy to protect infants. “If you receive RSV vaccine while pregnant, your baby will have protection and, in most cases, should not need an RSV immunization later,” according to the CDC.
- An RSV preventive antibody has been licensed and recommended for infants and some young children.
RSV isn’t the only respiratory virus with a protective vaccine.
COVID-19 interrupts important parts of our daily lives, but also put people at risk of serious illness and death. U.S. Latinos continue to suffer a disproportionate share of cases.
Staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your familia against the worst outcomes of COVID-19.
The good news is “You’re Covered”!
COVID-19 vaccines continue to be available to everyone in the United States free of cost, according to the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.
This is important news for Latinos, who face big obstacles to vaccination due to misinformation, living far away from clinics, work conflicts with medical appointments, and more.
“You may have heard about upcoming changes to how COVID-19 vaccines will be paid for, but even as these changes take place, COVID-19 vaccines will still be available and fully covered — free of cost for almost everyone,” according to the You’re Covered campaign, which features Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio as a partner.
How Healthy is Your Community?
Ensuring the health of you and your family is important.
But what about the health of your community?
Get a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card to discover the state of local health!
The report card provides interactive maps and data on a variety of health topics including healthcare, physical and mental health, transportation, and housing.
Compare the data of your county to other counties across the state and the nation.
Use the data from the report card to share with local leaders and organizations to advocate for healthy change in your area!
Editor’s Note: Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is a partner in the “You’re Covered” campaign of the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, led by the Alliance for Aging Research, Healthy Women, and the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging.
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