RSV, the “respiratory syncytial virus”, is the virus at the origin of a very common respiratory infection in infants; however, it can occur at any age.

How can an RSV infection be prevented?

RSV is a common and very contagious virus; however, by complying with a few basic rules of hygiene between October and March, you can reduce the risk of infection:

  • regular washing of hands
  • use of disposable paper handkerchiefs (the virus survives for several hours on objects)
  • covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

 Specific preventative measures for parents

Preventative measures are particularly important for parents in order to reduce the risk of infection in infants: 

  • always wash your hands before touching your baby 
  • if you have a cold or fever avoid kissing your baby 
  • limit contacts between your baby and people with contagious illnesses
  • avoid bringing you baby into confined and crowded spaces (child-care centres, shops, public transport etc.)
  • clean your house and the children’s toys to get rid of germs
  • aerate the baby’s room every day. 

RSV vaccines are being developed, but at present they are not available for use yet.

Although breastfeeding provides protection against a great number of viral infections, its effect has not been clearly proved with regard to RSV infections. 

If you think your baby may have a severe RSV infection, consult your doctor.

Injection of immunoglobulins

An injection of immunoglobulins (antibodies which neutralise the virus) can be administered preventatively to certain high-risk groups, such as premature babies or children suffering from pulmonary or cardiovascular problems. 

Limits of prevention

An RSV infection is difficult to prevent because the infection is very contagious and resembles a cold.

DID YOU KNOW? The RSV virus is sensitive to numerous disinfectants and detergents and to heating to over 55°C. 


Sciensano centralises and analyses all data provided by the different partners (network of sentinel laboratories and the National Reference Centre) and in this way is able to follow up the evolution of RSV infections.


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