There are steps you can take to help prevent the spread of RSV. Specifically, if you have cold-like symptoms you should
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds
- Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others
In addition, cleaning contaminated surfaces (such as doorknobs) may help stop the spread of RSV.
Ideally, people with cold-like symptoms should not interact with children at high risk for severe RSV disease, including premature infants, children younger than 2 years of age with chronic lung or heart conditions, and children with weakened immune systems. If this is not possible, they should carefully follow the prevention steps mentioned above and wash their hands before interacting with such children. They should also refrain from kissing high-risk children while they have cold-like symptoms.
Parents of children at high risk for developing severe RSV disease should help their child, when possible, do the following:
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Wash their hands often with soap and water
- Avoid touching their face with unwashed hands
- Limit the time they spend in child-care centers or other potentially contagious settings, especially during fall, winter, and spring. This may help prevent infection and spread of the virus during the RSV season.
Researchers are working to develop RSV vaccines, but none are available yet. A drug called palivizumab (pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb) is available to prevent severe RSV illness in certain infants and children who are at high risk for severe disease. For example, infants born prematurely or with congenital (from birth) heart disease or chronic lung disease. The drug can help prevent serious RSV disease, but it cannot help cure or treat children already suffering from serious RSV disease, and it cannot prevent infection with RSV. If your child is at high risk for severe RSV disease, talk to your healthcare provider to see if palivizumab can be used as a preventive measure.