RSV: Why Older Adults are at Risk

RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus case are skyrocketing across the country right now. Hospitals are becoming overcrowded with young children with RSV, a serious illness that can cause breathing problems and other complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV infections typically occur during the fall and winter, and start to drop off in the spring. Symptoms include runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing.

The majority of people who get RSV will have mild symptoms and recover within two weeks. However, it can be dangerous for babies, young children and older adults. A severe RSV infection can lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia, along with hospitalizations. Individuals with asthma, COPD and congestive heart failure may find RSV makes those chronic health issues worse.

Cases are Rising

RSV cases were down in 2020 and 2021, according to a study from the National Library of Medicine. This year, we’re seeing a surge in the virus. Medical experts say the mitigation measures we took during Covid-19, social distancing and wearing masks, also helped prevent the spread of other viruses, like RSV.

Those behaviors created what scientists are calling an “immunity gap.”

“Decreased exposure to endemic viruses created an immunity gap– a group of susceptible individuals who avoided infection and therefore lack pathogen-specific immunity to protect against future infection,” said two epidemiologists in the medical journal The Lancet.

RSV in Older Adults

While RSV is commonly thought of as a virus that affects babies and young children, older adults are also a high-risk population. Data from the CDC shows more than 177,000 older Americans are hospitalized each year from RSV. Around 14,000 die from it.

A report from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases suggests “gradual deterioration of the immune system due to aging is one of the several reasons why older adults are at an increased risk from viral respiratory disease.”

How to Treat RSV

There is no specific treatment or vaccination against this virus. Instead, it’s important to manage symptoms and prevent the spread of the virus by staying home when sick.

If you are having breathing problems or shortness of breath, seek medical attention immediately.

Keep Yourself Safe

RSV is very contagious. The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with other sick people and limiting the amount of time in potentially contagious settings during fall and winter. Wash your hands and clean commonly used surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

About Advena Living

At Advena Living, we take residents’ health and safety very seriously. We aim to maintain clean environments and prevent the spread of illnesses throughout best practices.

Advena Living specializes in assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation, and long-term care throughout the state. We have locations in Bonner Springs, Cherryvale, Clay Center, Clearwater, Rose Hill, Topeka, and Wichita.

Our name “Advena” means newcomer. We welcome newcomers seeking a caring environment where they may continue to live their best lives.