Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a highly contagious human pathogen that causes respiratory tract infections in people of all ages.

RSV is usually spread through direct contact with the virus, such as droplets from another person’s cough or sneeze contacting your eyes, nose, or mouth. It can also be spread by touching a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touching your face before washing your hands.

RSV infection does not confer long-term immunity; therefore, re-infection with RSV occurs throughout life and is common in all age groups. Usually, re-infections manifest as common acute upper respiratory tract infections. However, in more vulnerable individuals (e.g., immunocompromised persons or older adults), reinfections can also lead to more severe diseases, involving the lower respiratory tract and lower respiratory tract disease (LTRD).

In adults, the highest burden of disease is in older people and those with comorbidities such as lung or heart disease and diabetes. In these patient populations, RSV can exacerbate conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, chronic heart failure leading to severe outcomes such as acute respiratory failure, pneumonia, hospitalisation, and death.

Treatment for RSV in older adults is limited to supportive care consisting of supplemental oxygen, intravenous fluids and bronchodilators. In addition, inhaled and systemic corticosteroids are often prescribed in patients with asthma or COPD. Antibiotic prescription, appropriate or not, is frequent among patients hospitalized with RSV infection. Until recently there was no vaccine to prevent RSV for older adults on the market.

  • Recommendation
  • Europe
  • Belgium
  • Older adults
  • RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus)