This week we wanted to take some time to dive deeper into the topic of RSV by highlighting the new vaccines for older adults and discussing some everyday prevention tips to help safeguard you and your loved ones from RSV. Let’s explore this in detail!
What You Need to Know About RSV
RSV infections pose a serious threat to older adults as well as those with certain medical conditions such as chronic heart or lung disease, weakened immune systems, and other underlying medical conditions. Those residing in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are also at an increased risk. The CDC estimates that each year, RSV leads to 60,000–160,000 hospitalizations and 6,000–10,000 deaths among older adults.
When most adults contract RSV, they often experience mild cold-like symptoms, though some may progress to lung infections or pneumonia. RSV can also exacerbate serious conditions like asthma, COPD, and congestive heart failure. For older adults, RSV can lead to severe illness, potentially requiring hospitalization or resulting in fatalities. The risk is higher for older adults due to the fact that our immune systems weaken as we age.
New RSV Vaccines for Older Adults
As we mentioned last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has endorsed new Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccines from GSK and Pfizer for individuals aged 60 years and older. These vaccines mark a significant step forward in protecting older adults from severe RSV illness. The decision to receive the vaccine will be based on discussions between you and your healthcare provider to ensure it aligns with your health profile and needs.
Additional Strategies to Help Prevent RSV Infection
In addition to vaccination, there are other practical steps you can take. If you’re susceptible to severe RSV infection or frequently interact with older adults, it’s important to take additional precautions. Here are some key preventive measures to keep in mind:
- Frequent Hand Washing: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap is unavailable, opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Regular hand hygiene is a powerful defense against germs.
- Minimize Face Touching: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. This practice helps prevent the spread of germs.
- Limit Close Contact: Steer clear of close contact with individuals displaying cold-like symptoms. This includes refraining from sharing cups, utensils, and engaging in close physical interactions.
- Practice Respiratory Etiquette: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissues properly.
- Disinfect Surfaces: Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, mobile devices, and toys. This helps eliminate potential sources of germs.
- Stay Home When Sick: If you’re feeling unwell, it’s important to stay home from work, school, and public places. This not only aids your recovery but also protects others from potential infection.
With the fall season approaching, we encourage you to adopt these preventive measures and discuss the suitability of the RSV vaccine with your healthcare provider if you believe you’re at a higher risk. Share this information with your loved ones who may also be at risk and encourage them to talk with their doctors. By taking proactive steps, we can collectively ensure the well-being of our older adult community.