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Understanding RSV in Older Adults

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) affects people of all ages, but it poses particular concern for babies under 12 months and, increasingly, adults aged 65 and above, especially those with heart and lung disease or a compromised immune system.

A highly contagious virus that primarily targets the respiratory system, RSV symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sneezing, fever, headache, and wheezing. 

Most adults contracting RSV experience mild symptoms that resolve within about two weeks. However, severe cases can lead to bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) or pneumonia (lung infection). Between 60,000 to 120,000 older Americans are hospitalized, and 6,000 to 10,000 die yearly from RSV every year.

A new vaccine is now available to prevent RSV, which the CDC recommends for 

for pregnant individuals during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy, babies, and adults age 60 and older.

At Healthstone Primary Care, with three Florida locations, our medical team can advise whether this new vaccine is suitable for you.

As we enter peak virus season — fall through winter — Heatherstone Primary Care specialists take this opportunity to break down key facts about RSV, its impact on older adults, and tips to prevent contracting it.

What is RSV?

RSV resembles other respiratory ailments like the common cold and influenza. However, it does have some unique characteristics:

Because RSV symptoms resemble those of other respiratory viruses such as the cold, flu, and COVID-19, confirmation through laboratory testing is usually necessary.

Even asymptomatic adults, or those with mild symptoms, can transmit the virus to others.

Who's most vulnerable?

Adults at an elevated risk of encountering severe complications due to RSV include:

If you fall into these categories, consult your provider at Heatherstone Primary Care regarding the new RSV vaccine.

Managing RSV in adults

No specific treatment or medication exists for RSV. Like many other viruses, the best course for mild symptoms is staying hydrated and resting.

If you have conditions like COPD or asthma, adhere to prescribed medications to alleviate breathing difficulties. Consult your provider to discuss potential adjustments to your medications.

The RSV vaccine and other preventive measures

The vaccine aims to bolster the body's immune response against RSV and reduce the severity of symptoms and complications.

RSV typically spreads through respiratory droplets, primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be transmitted by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and touching one's face. Proper hand hygiene and avoiding close contact with individuals displaying symptoms is key.

During the peak RSV season, the Heatherstone Primary Care team also recommends using masks and social distancing in crowded indoor settings.

For further information about RSV, an assessment of your risk factors, or consultation on the new vaccine, contact Heatherstone Primary Care. Call the location closest to you. We have offices in Weston, Pembroke Pines, or Davie, FL, or request an appointment via the online booking tool.

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