ATLANTA -- A contagious virus is on the minds of doctors and parents as the season for it begins.

Doctors are now warning about the dangers of Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV. The contagious virus affects the lungs and breathing passages.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said RSV can be mild but it “can also cause more severe infections such as bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age.” 

The number of cases tends to rise in December and peak in winter months.  Right now in Georgia, there are more confirmed cases of the virus than the same time last year, according to CDC data.

Most people recover in a week or two but RSV can be serious for infants and older adults.   

Symptoms are similar to the common cold but those at high risk could get very sick and develop pneumonia or bronchiolitis.  Those symptoms include: 

  • Runny nose 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing 
  • Fever 
  • Wheezing 

Call a doctor if you, your child or an elderly person is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms.  

The Centers for Disease Control offers these tips for protecting yourself and others against RSV and other seasonal illnesses. 

  • Wash hands often 
  • Keep hands off face 
  • Avoid close contact with sick people 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces 
  • Stay at home when sick