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5 things you need to know about RSV


RSV is a common and highly contagious virus that affects the lungs and breathing passages. It can affect anyone of any age, but vulnerable people are at the highest risk of developing severe RSV that seriously affects their breathing. Here are five things that every Canadian should know about RSV:

  1. RSV is a big problem for young children. RSV spreads easily among young children and babies, with most being infected by the time of their third birthday. It can lead to a serious infection in a baby’s lower respiratory tract, like bronchiolitis or pneumonia. That’s why scientists are currently perfecting a new vaccine to build immunity in pregnant people, and why Health Canada recently approved a new antibody treatment to prevent serious illness in high risk babies.
  2. RSV is also a serious (but under-recognized!) disease in older adults. RSV symptoms for adults and older children can look a lot like cold symptoms, but in older adults the symptoms can be serious enough to lead to hospitalization. Among those hospitalized, up to 14.9% of elders 85+ won’t make it home.[1]

 It’s believed that a lack of routine testing in older adult patients contributes to under-recognition & underestimation of the disease burden[2].

  1. RSV follows a seasonal pattern, and it spreads easily. RSV tends to circulate most in the late fall to early spring. Sound familiar? RSV follows a similar pattern to that of the flu. RSV is an especially contagious virus because it can live on surfaces for hours and is easily passed from person to person.
  2. In older adults, rates of RSV complications are comparable to rates of flu complications – maybe even worse. Among adults 65+, RSV infections account for 7.2% of asthma hospital admissions and 10.6% of pneumonia hospital admissions.[3] A COPD diagnosis makes a person 13.4 times more likely than their peers to be hospitalized for RSV.[4]
  3. For older adults, the RSV vaccine is (finally) here. 2023/24 will be Canada’s first RSV season with real protection for adults 60+ thanks to the vaccine recently approved by Health Canada. If you’re 60+, we urge you to ask your pharmacist or primary care providers if RSV vaccination is right for you!

[1] Hamilton MA, et al. Influenza Other Respir. Viruses. 2022;16(6):1072–81

[2] Branche AR. Clin Infect Dis. 2019;69:204–06

[3] Falsey A, et al. N Engl J Med. 2005;352(17):1749-59

[4] Branche AR, et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2022;74:1004–11

Immunization means protection for everyone

Choosing immunization doesn’t just protect you: it also reduces your risk of spreading vaccine-preventable infections to people around you! To learn more about vaccines that protect lung health, visit:

Questions about your breathing?

The Certified Respiratory Educators who staff our Lung Health Line can be reached by phone (1-888-344-LUNG), email (

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