• Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Disease Issues

Among adults, who is most at risk for serious RSV infection?

Most adults experience a mild upper respiratory tract infection with RSV, with symptoms lasting only a few days. Some adults with RSV develop lower respiratory tract disease, including pneumonia. Because public health surveillance and testing for RSV in adults been limited in the past, our estimates of the burden of RSV disease are not precise and may underestimate the true burden among adults. Among U.S. adults age 65 and older, RSV is responsible for approximately 60,000 to 160,000 hospitalizations and 6,000 to 10,000 deaths each year.

Older adults at highest risk for severe RSV infection generally have one or more chronic medical conditions, including:

  • lung diseases (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and asthma)
  • cardiovascular diseases (such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • moderate or severe immune compromise (whether caused by disease or by treatment with an immunosuppressive medication)
  • diabetes mellitus
  • neurologic or neuromuscular conditions
  • kidney disorders
  • liver disorders
  • hematologic disorders

Other factors associated with increased risk include:

  • frailty
  • advanced age (hospitalization rates are highest among those age 75 or older)
  • residence in a nursing home or other long-term care facility

In addition to these listed factors, individual patients may have other underlying factors that a health-care provider determines might increase the risk for severe respiratory disease.

Last reviewed: January 22, 2024

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