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RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

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Introduction

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a common respiratory virus that often causes colds but can be severe for infants and older adults. It can spread when someone with the virus sneezes or coughs, through close contact with someone who is sick, or by touching infected surfaces and then touching your face without first washing your hands. People with RSV infection typically have fever, cough, runny nose, wheezing—and in very young infants—increased irritability and difficulty breathing. Learn more about RSV symptoms and how to care for people with RSV.

In most years, RSV is most common between October through March. RSV can spread at the same time as  COVID-19 and influenza (flu), so it’s important to protect yourself and others with immunizations for all three viruses.​

Prevention

RSV immunizations are now available for older adults, pregnant people, and infants.

RSV Vaccine for Older Adults

RSV vaccines can help protect adults aged 60 years and older from RSV. Adults at highest risk for severe RSV who may benefit most from an RSV vaccine include:

  • Older adults
  • Adults with chronic heart or lung disease, such as asthma
  • Adults with weakened immune systems (e.g., HIV, or having cancer treatments)
  • Adults with certain other underlying medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, sickle cell disease)
  • Adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities

You can get your RSV vaccine at the same visit as your flu and COVID-19 vaccines. Reach out to your local doctor, clinic, or pharmacy to ask if RSV vaccine is right for you and about availability. RSV vaccines for adults should be covered by most private insurance, Medicare Part D (PDF) and Medi-Cal. If you do not have health insurance or if your health insurance does not cover the cost of this immunization, please contact your local health department to learn where to go to get low or no-cost immunizations.

RSV Immunizations to Protect Infants & Toddlers

Two immunization products are now available and recommended by CDC to help children fight RSV infections and protect children from getting very sick from RSV: an RSV vaccine given during pregnancy or an RSV immunization given to a child after birth. 

Most infants will likely only need protection form either the prenatal RSV vaccine or infant immunization, but not both. Talk to your doctor about getting RSV vaccine during your pregnancy and about RSV immunization for your baby. 

​RSV Vaccine During Pregnancy:

RSV vaccine is recommended for pregnant people at 32 through 36 weeks of pregnancy during the months of September through January to prevent RSV infections in their infants.

You can receive the RSV vaccine on the same day as other vaccines recommended during pregnancy, including Tdap, COVID-19, and influenza.

RSV Immunization for Infants and Toddlers:

An RSV immunization called nirsevimab (Beyfortus®)​ can help protect infants and toddlers from severe RSV illness. The antibodies in nirsevimab are just like those that develop after a typical vaccine. RSV immunization is recommended for:

  • All infants under 8 months of age
  • Infants and toddlers 8 through 19 months of age at high risk for severe RSV.

Palivizumab (Synagis), an older RSV immunization, may still be used for children at higher risk who have not yet received nirsevimab. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about recommendations for your child.

RSV immunizations for children should be covered by most private insurance plans. If your child is uninsured, underinsured, Medi-Cal eligible or American Indian/Alaskan Native, they are eligible to receive RSV and other recommended immunizations through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

​Other Prevention Tips

​Everyday preventative actions can also help prevent the spread of RSV, flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory viruses, including:

  • ​​Staying home if you’re feeling sick.
  • Considering wearing a mask, especially if you are sick or in crowded or indoor areas. High-quality masks continue to be an important tool for preventing the spread of viruses such as RSV, COVID-19 and the flu.
  • Washing your hands regularly. Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water — for at least 20 seconds — is an easy and effective way to stay healthy and slow the spread of viruses.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or arm, or use a disposable tissue. Make sure to wash your hands or use sanitizer and dispose of your tissue afterward.

Resources & Guidance

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