Infection with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, occurs when a person inhales or comes in contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person, as reported by Mayo Clinic. The RSV virus can live for several hours on hard surfaces, such as countertops and toys, and it enters a person's body through the eyes, nose or mouth.
People with RSV are most contagious during the first few days of the infection, but they may continue to spread the virus for up to a few weeks, according to Mayo Clinic. Symptoms typically appear four to six days after infection, as noted by the American Lung Association. RSV infections often occur during the winter months.
RSV infection is very common, with most children experiencing an RSV infection before turning 2 years old, as reported by the American Lung Association. Symptoms are similar to the common cold, and include nasal congestion, dry cough, sore throat, headache and low-grade fever, states Mayo Clinic. Symptoms usually resolve in one to two weeks. Some people, especially babies and individuals with chronic health problems, develop severe cases of RSV and experience serious symptoms such as severe cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. Severe RSV cases usually require hospitalization.