Experts say RSV may increase risks for senior citizens

News Highlights

 Public health experts warn that over 9 million Filipino seniors, especially those with comorbidities, are at high risk for severe RSV infections due to weakened immune systems.
 RSV easily infects members within households, with symptoms often mistaken for the common flu, leading to potentially fatal complications in seniors.
 There is no targeted treatment for RSV in adults.
 Seniors require extensive aftercare post-hospitalization for RSV, with a significant percentage needing professional home care and facing high readmission and mortality rates.
 RSV is often misperceived as a pediatric illness, but it poses a greater threat to older adults, causing severe complications such as pneumonia, respiratory distress, and exacerbation of pre-existing comorbidities.
 Preventive measures, including regular medical consultations, hygiene protocols, and healthy lifestyle habits, are crucial for mitigating RSV risks among seniors.

Public health experts are raising concerns for senior citizens and Filipinos with comorbidities regarding the serious risks associated with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country has over 9 million seniors aged 60 and above. 1 Seniors, especially those who have comorbidities, are at higher risk of severe Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections due to their
weakened immune systems. 2

Dr. Rontgene Solante, an Infectious Disease Expert and President of the Philippine College of Physicians, describes RSV as a widespread yet lesser-known respiratory virus that transmits through inhalation or contact with respiratory secretions of those infected. 3 It typically manifests symptoms including congestion, cough, wheezing, and low-grade fever. 4

“Identifying RSV from other respiratory diseases is difficult because of its non-specific symptoms similar to other illnesses. Diagnosis requires testing that is often expensive and not widely accessible. Seniors and individuals with comorbidities may mistake their symptoms for a common cold or flu, not realizing they could be suffering from RSV, which can result in severe long-term damage or even fatal complications. More concerning is that there is no specific treatment for RSV in adults,” 5 says Dr. Solante.

He emphasizes that while RSV can infect individuals at any time of the year, it spreads more intensively during the rainy months from September to February, peaking in the colder months of October and December. 6 – 7 This highly contagious virus spreads easily within households, 7 where one infected person typically infects three others, 8 and while most are infectious for 3-8 days, 9 older adults may transmit the virus for extended periods. 10

1 Philippine Statistics Authority. Age and Sex Distribution in the Philippine Population (2020 Census of Population and Housing). Retrieved from:
2 United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention. RSV in Older Adults and Adults with Chronic Medical Conditions. Retrieved from:
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2023. RSV transmission.
4 Falsey, A. & Walsh, E. (n.d). National Library of Medicine. Respiratory Syncytial Virus infection in elderly adults. Retrieved from:
5 Nam HH and Ison MG. BMJ 2019;366:l5021
6 World Health Organization. Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS).
7 Otomaru H et al. Am J Epidemiol 2021;190:2536–2543
8 Walsh EE et al. J Infect Dis 2013;207:1424–1432
9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2023. RSV transmission. Retrieved from:
10 Walsh EE et al. J Infect Dis 2013;207:1424–1432