ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While the respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, is often thought of as a childhood issue, experts said many overlook its impact on adults. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting RSV hospitalizations for seniors are 10 times higher than usual for this point in the year.
Dr. Julia Pfaff at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg said to watch out for more severe symptoms.
“So, if you are getting high fever and dehydration, those are two big reasons for hospitalization for some patients," said Pfaff.
RSV doesn’t typically send as many adults to the hospital, but if it does, it can be deadly for those with underlying health conditions. Rising RSV numbers come as many come down with COVID or the flu, and it might be difficult to know what you have.
“All the illnesses can start with symptoms of fatigue, decreased appetite, and then it will progress to symptoms of an upper respiratory infection with coughing, fever. In some cases, lower respiratory illness like bronchitis and pneumonia, which is fairly rare for RSV," said Pfaff.
Tracking RSV is nowhere near as thorough as it is for COVID-19, so it’s difficult to know the exact numbers. But those with weakened immune systems and chronic heart or lung disease need to be extra careful.
Pfaff said the ways to limit the spread of RSV might sound familiar.
“Wash your hands. Stay home if you are sick. Clean hard surfaces. And certainly, don’t go around those who are vulnerable or at risk for more severe illness if you are feeling like you are having symptoms," said Pfaff.
Pfaff said most people who get RSV will experience mild symptoms, and they will go away in a week or two with supportive care. That means drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest.