Overview (Microbiological Features and Global Epidemiological Situation)

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus, so-called RSV, is a common respiratory virus which causes mild, cold-like symptoms in all age groups. RSV is one of the most common child illnesses as well as respiratory illnesses among older adults. When it becomes a severe lower respiratory tract infection such as pneumonia, infants and young children usually experience symptoms such as rhinorrhea, decreased appetite, cough, sneezing, fever and wheezing, and they require supportive care (e.g. oxygen) through hospitalization. Severe cases in older adults can also cause pneumonia and other deteriorated conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and congestive heart failure. They also need to be hospitalized for the treatment.

Transmission Route

RSV spreads through droplet and contact transmissions. When coughing or sneezing, droplets including RSV spreads into the environment and enters into another person through the eyes, nose or mouth. Contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs and tables are potential sources of contact transmission. Direct contact with an infected person such as kissing the face of a child is also regarded as a risk factor to contract RSV infection.
Infected patients can spread RSV for 3 to 8 days. However, those with a weak immunity such as infants continue to spread RSV for 4 weeks without symptoms.

Prevention Methods in Healthcare Facilities

Most importantly, staff education, including epidemiology and infection control procedures, is vital for preventing transmission of RSV in healthcare facilities. In addition to the standard precautions, transmission-based precautions are required to implement. The following table explains some of the example prevention procedures recommended by the CDC.

  • Hand hygiene:

    Alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) can kill RSV. Thus, it is recommended to rub the hands with ABHR when they are not visibly contaminated. When the hands are visibly contaminated, wash hands with soap (either antimicrobial or normal) and water.

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE):

    Gloves should be worn when handling contaminated equipment or samples. Gowns should be added when entering the room of a suspected or diagnosed patient of RSV. Face protection including goggles and a face mask should be equipped when approaching a suspected or diagnosed patient within 3 feet.

  • Cleaning and disinfecting the environment:

    Frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs should be cleaned and disinfected to avoid indirect contact transmission of RSV. Through touching surfaces or droplets by infected persons, there are germs on the surface of the environment.

  • Coughing etiquette

    Coughing and sneezing should be covered by a tissue or the upper shirt sleeves instead of covering with the hands. This is because the hands are frequently touching various surfaces and may transfer the RSV to other people.
For more information regarding precautions in healthcare facilities, please see below website provided by the CDC.

Guidelines for Preventing Health-Care--Associated Pneumonia, 2003.
Available from:

Reference List

CDC, 2013. Guidelines for Preventing Health-Care--Associated Pneumonia, 2003.
Available at: (Accessed at: 20 Dec 2017)

CDC, 2017. Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV).
Available at: (Accessed 20 Dec 2017)

CDC, 2017. NREVSS Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Surveillance,
Available at: (Accessed at: 19 Dec 2017)