Skip to content

    Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection - Cause

    Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is highly contagious, meaning it spreads easily from person to person. There are two main types of RSV and many subtypes (strains). For this reason, you cannot have full immunity to the virus. And you may have many RSV infections throughout life.

    People with RSV infection may spread the virus through their secretions (saliva or mucus) when they cough, sneeze, or talk. You can catch the virus by:

    • Touching an object or surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth without first washing your hands. The virus can survive for more than 6 hours on countertops and other hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, and for 30 minutes on hands, clothing, or tissue.
    • Close contact. If an infected person coughs or sneezes near you, you could breathe in RSV that's in his or her saliva or mucus.

    The virus spreads easily in crowded settings, such as child care facilities, preschools, and nursing homes. Children attending school often spread the virus to their parents and siblings. The incubation period-the time from exposure to RSV until you have symptoms-ranges from 2 to 8 days but usually is 4 to 6 days.1

    You are most likely to spread the virus within the first several days after symptoms of RSV infection begin. You remain contagious for up to 8 days. Babies and young children may spread the virus for at least 3 to 4 weeks.

    Many different viruses can cause lower respiratory tract camera.gif infections in children. These viruses can cause symptoms that are similar to an RSV infection.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    man coughing
    You may not even know you have it.
    blood clot
    Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
     
    man coughing
    When a cold becomes bronchitis.
    human lungs
    Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.
     

    chest x-ray
    Slideshow
    Bronchitis Overview
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Copd Myth Fact Quiz
    QUIZ
    Energy Boosting Foods
    SLIDESHOW
     

    lungs
    Article
    smokestacks
    Article
     
    woman coughing
    Article
    Lung xray and caduceus
    Article