Welcome to our RSV Hub
Welcome to our RSV hub where you can find out more about respiratory syncytial virus, pronounced “sin-si-tial”, otherwise known as RSV, the illness it can cause and the symptoms you should look out for1,3.
Learn more below, and don't forget to download the fact sheet on RSV.
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a virus that causes respiratory infections.
In Australia, RSV outbreaks typically occur during the autumn and winter months, often peaking in June and July.
This hub is for the general public and is part of the Together Against RSV disease awareness campaign, created and funded by Sanofi.
It is important to remember that although most cases of RSV infections in babies are mild and clear up on their own within a few weeks, some can be more serious5, such as the story of baby Florence.
How common is RSV?
Each year, RSV causes an estimated 3.2 million hospital admissions globally in children under 5, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries. RSV outbreaks typically occur during the autumn and winter months, often peaking in June and July in Australia, with these outbreaks usually preceding the influenza season.
Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been large scale out-of-season RSV outbreaks, which have corresponded with easing restrictions. It is unclear how long the disruptions to seasonal patterns will occur for due to the impact of COVID-19, so it is important to remain vigilant.
Infection by RSV is so common that most children will have been infected with the virus by the age of 3. Exposure to the virus may provide some immunity against getting infected again, but reinfection is still possible.
Who can get RSV?
Anyone can get RSV, however there are certain groups of people who may be at an increased risk of developing severe infections.
- Whilst RSV usually causes mild illness, it may lead to conditions such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia which can be severe in infants especially those under the age of 12 months. RSV is also a leading cause of hospitalisation in in infants under 12 months.
- Older children and adults may also have an increased risk of severe symptoms if they have existing chronic heart, lung or immune problems.
- Older adults, especially those 65 years and older are at high risk of severe RSV infection.
What are the symptoms of RSV?
For most people, RSV infection causes a mild respiratory illness. Symptoms typically begin 5 days after virus exposure, and can get worse over the first 3 to 4 days before they improve.
In mild cases, symptoms can include:
- Runny nose
- Ear infection (less common)
Can RSV be serious?
In severe cases, symptoms can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe cough
- Bluish colour of the skin due to lack of oxygen (cyanosis)
- Lethargy (in babies)
- Poor feeding (in babies)
- Irritability (in babies)
How do you treat RSV?
There is currently no specific treatment for RSV, so treatment is therefore aimed at managing and relieving symptoms. This can include:
- Bed rest
- Staying hydrated with regular sips of water or frequent feeds for babies
- Paracetamol and ibuprofen to relieve pain and fever
How can you protect against RSV?
There are currently no vaccines available for the prevention of RSV for all infants.
Some simple ways to stop the spread of RSV include:
- Washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water or using hand sanitiser
- Wearing a mask in crowded areas or if you’re visiting high risk individuals
- Regularly clean surfaces and items that may be contaminated, including toys shared among children
- Staying at home if you don’t feel well
- Covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
- Avoiding sharing cups, glasses, or cutlery with people if you’re unwell
- Throwing out tissues as soon as you’ve used them
- Avoiding contact with high risk people such as infants, older people and immunocompromised individuals when sick
For more information on RSV please speak to a healthcare professional
Together Against RSV is a disease awareness initiative from Sanofi to educate and inform the general public about illnesses caused by RSV.
1. Eden J-S, et al. Off-season RSV epidemics in Australia after easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Nature Communications. 2022;13:2884.
2. Saravanos GL, et al. RSV Epidemiology in Australia Before and During COVID-19. Pediatrics. 2022;149(2):e2021053537.
3. NSW Government. NSW Health. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/respiratory-syncytial-virus.aspx (accessed 25 August 2022).
4. The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network. Fact Sheet – respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Available at: https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/fact-sheets/respiratory-syncytial-virus-rsv (accessed 25 August 2022).
5. Mayo Clinic. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/respiratory-syncytial-virus/symptoms-causes/syc-20353098 (accessed 26 August 2022).
6. Health Direct. Respiratory syncytial virus. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/respiratory-syncytial-virus-rsv (accessed 25 August 2022).
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. RSV in Older Adults and Adults with Chronic Medical Conditions. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/high-risk/older-adults.html (accessed 30 September 2022).
8. Karron RA. Plotkin’s Vaccines. Seventh edition. Chapter 51, Respiratory Syncytial VirusVaccines. Elsevier Inc. 2018.
9. Leader S, et al. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002;21(7) 629-632.