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Not Just a Childhood Illness, RSV Can Frequently Cause Complications and Death Among Older Adults

Published October 12, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC (Oct. 12, 2022) — You may have heard about Respiratory Syncytial Virus – commonly called RSV – being a common respiratory virus among infants and toddlers. But RSV is not just an illness affecting kids. RSV can affect older adults more frequently and just as seriously, and often result in death. 

“While symptoms are usually mild and cold-like, RSV is a serious illness for older adults in many cases,” says Lindsay Clarke, Senior Vice President of Health Education and Advocacy at the Alliance. “In older adults, RSV can cause more than 14,000 deaths per year compared to an estimated 500 deaths per year for children younger than 5 years old.”  

The Alliance for Aging Research is working to raise awareness especially during this RSV Awareness Month, about RSV in older adults by sharing resources, PSAs, and patient stories.  

Donald Schuessler, MD, a pediatrician and attending physician at Gouverneur Hospital in upstate New York is featured in a patient video and says that while there are more than 4 million cases of RSV reported each year, his own diagnosis as an adult still caught him a bit by surprise. 

“This past summer, I got a viral respiratory infection. I started feeling worse and worse and finally I went and had a nasal swab. I had RSV,” he said. “I was very uncomfortable and miserable for about 10 to 12 days, but some people die from this. So it’s a big problem and figuring out how to address that and try to help those folks and prevent serious disease in adults is a real challenge for us as we move ahead to the next number of years.” 

Spread through coughs, sneezes, and touching the eyes, nose, or mouth after being in contact with a contaminated surface, RSV symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses and include cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, low-grade fever, and headaches. As our bodies age, older adults have a more increased risk for having serious complications of RSV infection which can including difficulty breathing, lung infection, congestive heart failure, hospitalization, and even death. 

Staying up to date on adult immunizations is one way for older adults to protect themselves against vulnerabilities that can mean the difference between a mild or serious case of RSV. To learn about how to decrease your or a loved one’s risk of contracting RSV, talk to your health care provider and visit

As a part of the Our Best Shot campaign the Alliance for Aging Research has released the following to help raise awareness about RSV and its complications: 

The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance believes advances in research help people live longer, happier, more productive lives and reduce healthcare costs over the long term. For more than 30 years, the Alliance has guided efforts to substantially increase funding and focus for aging at the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration; built influential coalitions to guide groundbreaking regulatory improvements for age-related diseases; and created award-winning, high-impact educational materials to improve the health and well-being of older adults and their family caregivers. For more information, visit  

For more information about the Alliance for Aging Research or to interview an expert on this topic, please contact Katie Riley, Vice President of Communications, at [email protected] 

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