Find out what you can do to prevent and treat respiratory viruses


December 13, 2022


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Many respiratory viruses spread year-round in the United States but are seen at higher levels during the fall and winter months. Currently, the U.S. is experiencing elevated levels of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza (flu), and COVID-19. Find out who’s at higher risk for severe illness, how to protect yourself and others from these viruses, and how to care for people who may have RSV, flu, or COVID-19.


The good news is that many of the same behaviors can help protect people from all 3 viruses, plus many others that may be circulating and have similar symptoms.


Want to hear directly from the experts about these illnesses? View the recording from our Nov. 29th EPIC Webinar: Flu, RSV, COVID-19 and other Respiratory Threats.


Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms like cough, runny nose, and low-grade fever. It can also cause wheezing. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially in babies and children under 5 years old and in older adults. Severe infections can include bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) or pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and RSV can also make conditions like asthma worse.


How it spreads: RSV can be spread through coughs, sneezes, direct contact with the virus (like kissing the face of a child with RSV),and touching contaminated surfaces.


Treatment: While there’s no specific treatment for RSV infection, you can take over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Call your healthcare provider if you or your child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms.


Prevention: If you are sick, stay home; keep other sick family members home as well and away from those at high risk for RSV. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and clean surfaces such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices.


Learn more about RSV

Influenza (Flu)


Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. People 65 years and older, young children, pregnant people, and people with certain health conditions are at higher risk of developing serious complications from flu infection.


Flu hospitalizations are highest right now among adults 65 years and older and young children. CDC expects that flu viruses will continue to spread for weeks or even months.


How it spreads: Flu can spread to others if they breath in droplets carrying virus from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu may also spread by people touching a contaminated surface or object that has flu virus on it, then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.


Treatment: Flu can be treated with antiviral drugs your doctor can prescribe when illness is caught early.


Prevention: The first and most important action in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. There is still time to get vaccinated this season. In addition, take everyday preventive actions like staying home if you’re sick, covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and cleaning surfaces such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices often.

Learn more about Flu



COVID-19 is still circulating in communities and can still cause serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Rates of hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 decreased over the past few months, but have now leveled out. CDC continues to track and monitor COVID-19 community levels to determine the impact of COVID-19 on communities. People with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Everyone should prepare for potential increases through the fall and winter and take preventive action to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.

How it spreads: COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. Learn how COVID-19 spreads and the factors that make risk of spread higher or lower.

Treatment: If you test positive for COVID-19, treatments are available and should be taken early. The FDA has authorized certain antiviral medications and monoclonal antibodies to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in people who are more likely to get very sick. 

Prevention: COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are effective at protecting people from severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Everyone ages 6 months and older is recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine and those ages 5 years and older should receive an updated COVID-19 booster, when eligible.   

If you have tested positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, isolate by yourself if possible and stay home. Wear a high-quality mask, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often. Visit How to Protect Yourself and Others for other actions you can take to help keep others from getting sick.  


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1600 Clifton Rd   Atlanta, GA 30329   1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)   TTY: 888-232-6348
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