RSV 2023 – what you need to know

Last year respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants and children shot up, causing record numbers of hospitalisations.  Respiratory virus expert, Associate Professor Michelle Tate share’s what you need to know about RSV in 2023.

Respiratory virus expert A/Prof Michelle Tate share what you need to know about RSV in 2023.
Associate Professor Michelle Tate

What is RSV?

RSV is a common virus that infects the lung and breathing passages to cause the common cold.

Why was there an RSV outbreak last year?

It is thought that there was an RSV outbreak in 2022 as during the COVID pandemic many people were not exposed to RSV and therefore no longer had immunity through exposure to the virus.

What are RSV symptoms?

RSV can cause a cold with runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, fever and headache and also cough. RSV can also cause wheezing and difficulty breathing, particularly in babies and young children. Older children and adults can also have breathing problems, especially if they have underlying heart, lung and immune problems.

How does RSV affect babies and children?

Almost all children have had an RSV infection by age two. Babies in their first year of life are more likely to experience severe infections requiring hospitalisation, because their airways are smaller. Babies are also less likely to have immunity. RSV can be particularly severe in children as it can cause breathing problems. It can be more severe in children with asthma as it can make asthma symptoms worse.

When is my child at risk and what should I do?

Father wiping daughter's nose with handkerchief, RSV 2023 - what you need to know

Children may require hospitalisation if they are having difficulty breathing, have a fever that does not go away after two days, or have lost energy and no longer eat, drink or urinate. This is so they can be monitored and receive intravenous fluids to keep hydrated and ventilators to help with breathing.

How does RSV affect adults?

When adults get an RSV infection, they often experience mild cold symptoms. However, some adults can develop a more severe lung infection. RSV can also worsen chronic lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), making it harder to breath. Older adults are at greater risk than young adults and can get very sick from RSV may need to be hospitalised, some may even die.

Is there a season for RSV?

Just like the flu, RSV infections are more common in winter, when we spend more time indoors. However, RSV infections occur all year round, especially in young children who frequent childcare centres.

Can RSV be prevented?

There is currently no approved vaccine for RSV. Regular hand-washing and good hygiene practice can help reduce the spread. If someone is sick with symptoms that look like a cold, it is best to avoid close contact with others until they are better, especially if that person is around young children or high-risk people.

Respiratory virus expert, A/Prof Michelle Tate share’s what you need to know about the 2023 flu season.

A/Prof Michelle Tate shares what you need to know about the 2023 flu season.

Associate Professor Michelle Tate from the Viral Immunity and Immunopathology Research Group at Hudson InstituteAssociate Professor Michelle Tate investigates how inflammation turns from protector to destroyer in severe and fatal respiratory viral infections including influenza and RSV.

By studying this hyperinflammatory response, Associate Professor Michelle Tate and her team are identifying therapeutic targets and treatment strategies to limit hyperinflammation and save lives.

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