- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms. Almost all children have had their first RSV infection by their second birthday. People can be infected with RSV several times over a lifetime. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious.
- RSV is a seasonal virus. Most cases occur between October and March each year in the continental United States. In parts of the United States with different weather patterns, such as Alaska or Hawaii, RSV may occur at different times of year.
- Infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe RSV and need hospitalization.
- RSV is the most common cause of hospitalization of infants younger than one year of age, usually because of difficulty breathing and dehydration. About one in 50 babies are hospitalized for RSV in the United States each year.
- Among older adults, those who are frail, elderly, or have chronic health conditions (especially heart or lung disease) are most likely to develop severe RSV disease. RSV causes about 6,000 to 10,000 deaths in older adults in the United States each year.
- There is no specific treatment or cure for RSV infection, but RSV vaccines and immunizations to prevent infection became available in 2023 to protect people at risk of severe disease.
- RSV in infants can be prevented in two ways. At certain times of year, RSV vaccine may be given during pregnancy. The mother’s immune system makes preventive antibodies against RSV that go through the placenta to the fetus and continue to protect the baby after birth. If the mother is not vaccinated, the baby may be protected by giving them RSV preventive antibodies in an injection after they are born, the same way vaccines are given. These antibodies help protect the infant from RSV infection for several months.
- Some young children at high risk of serious RSV infection may need RSV preventive antibodies during their second RSV season.
- Adults age 60 and older may be vaccinated against RSV after discussing their personal health risks, the benefits of vaccination, and their preferences with their healthcare provider.
RSV Immunization Schedule
To protect infants from severe RSV disease, people who are pregnant and in their third trimester, between 32 and 36 weeks, 6 days gestation, between September and the end of January may be given the Pfizer RSV vaccine (brand name Abrysvo). Infants younger than 8 months of age whose mothers were not vaccinated should be immunized with RSV preventive antibodies before or during their first RSV season, typically between October and March. Certain older infants aged 8 months through 19 months at high risk of severe RSV disease should be immunized before or during their second RSV season.
Adults age 60 or older may be vaccinated against RSV with a single dose of RSV vaccine (two brands of vaccine are available for this age group), based on a conversation about their risks and benefits with their healthcare provider. Currently, only one dose of vaccine is recommended.
Find information from CDC about RSV infection for people of all ages.
What parents of young children should know about immunization with RSV preventive antibody.
What older adults should know when making a decision about RSV vaccination.
What pregnant people should know about RSV vaccination during pregnancy.
People of any age can feel a bit anxious about getting a shot. Some may be so anxious that they avoid vaccination…even when they know it’s important. Learn more about simple ways to help any child or adult feel better and more confident when getting vaccinated.