RSV Cases Surge in Older Adults Across America with Hospitalization Rates Up 10 Times in Seniors

Doctor talking to the patient

Doctor talking to the patient

Photo: Getty Images

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus is affecting children and adults across the United States.

According to new data, about 6 out of every 100,000 seniors have been hospitalized with the virus.

This season, which ranges from mid-September to mid-November, has seen a surge in RSV cases among older adults with hospitalization rates 10 times higher than last season. In previous years the CDC saw an average of 60,000-120,000 hospitalizations and about 6,000-10,000 reported deaths.

Earlier in November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory alert after it observed an increase in RSV detections and RSV-associated emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

While the cases in older adults are significantly lower than the number of children that are being infected with the virus, the CDC has stressed that adults with chronic heart or lung disease, a weakened immune system, or are 65 years and older, are all in danger of contracting the virus.

The virus spreads to the lower respiratory tract and causes pneumonia or bronchiolitis. According to the CDC, when an older adult gets RSV, they typically have mild cold-like symptoms including runny nose, sore throat, cough, and headache.

To avoid getting sick with RSV, the precautions are similar to what we’ve learned to do during the COVID pandemic.

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“Continue to wash your hands, especially before meals and when coming home, and stay home if you are sick,” advises Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a pediatrician specializing in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Child Health Advocacy and a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad.

“Anyone can catch RSV. The pandemic has done a great job at making everyone acutely aware of what they touch and how they interact with others,” she told PEOPLE.