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07 February 2024

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): What You Need to Know

by Moderna
RSV intro - awareness

The 2022 respiratory illness season sparked new public interest in respiratory syncytial virus(RSV) as its spike in cases, in combination with that of COVID-19 and flu, overwhelmed health systems. In fact, a CDC analysis of Google Trends data saw the highest level of search interest ever recorded for RSV in November 2022.¹ Cases of RSV are on the rise again this winter, and as RSV becomes a seasonal concern, it’s critical we understand its burden, who is most at risk, and what Moderna is doing to address it.²

RSV: A Common but Challenging Virus

RSV is a common respiratory virus that for some, causes mild, cold-like symptoms.³ While most people recover in a week or two⁴, some vulnerable populations, like infants and older adults, are more likely to develop severe RSV complications that could require hospitalization.⁵ In the U.S., the CDC estimates that between 60,000 and 160,000 older adults are hospitalized and 6,000 to 10,000 die from RSV infections every year.⁶ The personal burden and consequence of an RSV infection can be high - RSV can result in lung infection or pneumonia in older adults.⁷ For those with comorbidities, RSV can also exacerbate conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).⁸

Because RSV cases tend to increase at the same time as COVID-19, the common cold, and seasonal flu, and all four respiratory illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to determine which virus you have based on symptoms alone. Below is a helpful grid to help determine what symptoms to watch for each. To diagnose, a healthcare professional may use a diagnostic test - knowing which virus you have is useful for knowing treatment options and protecting others from becoming ill.

Symptoms Chart

Source: National Foundation for Infectious Disease.” How to Tell the Difference between Flu, RSV, COVID-19, and the Common Cold,”

Unlocking the Future of Respiratory Vaccine Candidates with mRNA

The recent increase of RSV-associated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths amongst older adults worldwide has reinforced the need for additional measures to prevent severe RSV-associated outcomes. At Moderna, we’re exploring our ability to rapidly design an RSV vaccine candidate that uses mRNA to build on the advancements made in RSV research over the last decade. We hope that one day, this vaccine will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths and help make the fall respiratory virus season more manageable.

The industry has already made tremendous strides in arming the public against RSV, but this is just the beginning. We hope to continue to provide public health tools that help control this virus and other common respiratory illnesses, bringing much-needed preventive treatments to those who need them most.

Read more about Moderna’s RSV research and pipeline.