Cold weather and visiting friends and family for the holidays can increase the spread of sickness. With RSV and Covid-19 cases on the rise, preventing the spread of germs is more important than ever before.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV is defined by the MayoClinic as the infection of the lungs and respiratory tract. It most commonly affects infants and young children under the age of 2. Those infected with RSV can have cold-like symptoms and can usually be treated by common self-care measures. However, babies younger than 12 months, older adults, and people with lung and heart disease or a weakened immune system can end up with a serious infection.
A rise in RSV began in spring 2021 after safety measures for COVID were relaxed and more and more people received the vaccine. RSV can start off as a cold in babies and later progress to bronchiolitis or pneumonia with symptoms lasting around 5 to 7 days. It commonly spreads from one person to another and enters through the nose or eyes. Direct person-to-person contact, unclean hands, and unclean objects or surfaces are the most common avenues of catching RSV. Symptoms appear 2 to 8 days after contact and people are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. Infants with weakened immune systems, however, can be contagious for up to 4 weeks even without symptoms. RSV poses a serious risk for elderly patients as well, causing nearly 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths annually in American adults older than 65.
During a week in July this year, the Yale Weekly Virus Summary included RSV along with other infectious diseases that are rarely seen in the summer. There has been a heightened sense of unpredictability around infectious diseases this fall and winter as infectious diseases seem to be on the rise earlier in the year than ever before.
RSV is an extremely contagious virus and is spread commonly through droplets in the air that land on surfaces. Therefore, washing your hands often and routinely disinfecting surfaces is so important in prevention. The CDC recommends cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices to help prevent RSV.
Earlier in the year the Biden administration warned of a fall Coronavirus surge in the United States, estimating around 100 million Americans could get COVID-19 in the fall and winter months. “The combination of waning COVID-19 immunity and colder weather on the horizon that will see more people heading indoors could send infections right back up, with the trend reversing as soon as next month”, reports U.S. News. Experts have already seen a rise in infections in several European countries like the U.K., France, and Italy. There has already been an emergence of new omicron subvariants in the U.S. that are increasingly good at dodging immunity.
The World Health Organization recommends keeping good respiratory hygiene to prevent Covid this winter by:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with either an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water to eliminate germs that may be on your hands, including viruses.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then dispose of the used tissue immediately into a closed bin and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently, especially those which are regularly touched, such as door handles, faucets, and phone screens.
As we’ve seen in the past two years, the descendants of previous Covid strains continue to mutate and spread. As people begin to move indoors due to colder weather, public health experts worry about another surge of Covid cases and stress for people to continue to help prevent the spread of the virus.
RSV and the Coronavirus are both respiratory viruses, meaning symptoms of the two diseases can be similar. Having RSV can also lower immunity and in turn, increase the risk of getting COVID-19 in all ages. These infections also have the possibility of occurring together which can worsen the symptoms of Covid. Both RSV and Covid are spread from person-to-person droplets in the air and can spread easily in a community.
With cold, flu, Covid, and now RSV spreading around, it can be difficult to know what illness your symptoms are from. It is important to get tested to be able to pin down what you have in order to understand how severe or contagious you actually are. Taking preventative measures against these illnesses is the best way to stay healthy this holiday season.
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