July 19, 2024

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) increases health risks among senior citizens as they already have weakened immune systems, an infectious disease expert said.

RSV is a common and contagious virus that causes infection with mild symptoms, such as cough, colds, congestion, fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and tiredness.

“How is this spread? When a person has symptoms, coughing, sneezing, there is a possibility you can get it. Each person infected with RSV affects three other people on average,” Philippine College of Physicians president and infectious disease expert, Dr. Rontgene Solante said during a media panel discussion.

Individuals infected with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days, but older adults may shed the virus for a longer time.

Solante noted easing hygiene protocols observed during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as wearing face masks, makes Filipinos more prone to RSV.

RSV season in the Philippines is from September to February, peaking between October and December, he said.

Noting that 60,000 to 100,000 cases of hospitalization among senior citizens are caused by RSV, Solante emphasized that this infection could exacerbate co-morbidities, leading to cardiovascular complications that may cause death.

“Patients with underlying co-morbidities are at a higher risk of hospitalization when they get RSV infection – up to two times higher for asthma patients, up to six times higher for patients with heart disease and diabetes and up to 13 times higher for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients,” he said.

Pulmonary expert, Dr. Lenora Fernandez, meanwhile, said there is no targeted treatment for RSV in adults, particularly in senior citizens.

Geriatrics expert, Dr. Lourdes Carolina Dumlao likewise said senior citizens could still have “healthy aging” despite the threat of such infectious diseases as RSV.

Currently, vaccines are available for some population groups, such as senior citizens, at risk of severe RSV infection. – PNA