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Seasonal Respiratory Viruses

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Department of Health and Human Services

Seasonal Respiratory Viruses

It is common to get sick from respiratory viruses, especially during the fall and winter. There are actions you can take to protect yourself and others. Learn about COVID-19, flu and RSV, and how to prevent them and reduce your risk of getting seriously ill. 



is a disease caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2, and is very contagious. COVID-19 most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel like a cold, flu or pneumonia. It can also attack other body parts outside of the lungs and respiratory symptoms. 
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Influenza (flu)

is a contagious respiratory illness typically in the nose, throat, and lungs caused by influenza viruses. It can result in mild to severe illness and sometimes death.

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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, including runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and fever. These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and difficulty breathing.

For each of these viruses, your best protection is to be up to date on vaccines. If you do test positive or are diagnosed with the viruses, talk to your health care provider about the treatment options that are best for you.

Take every day preventative actions to stop the spread of germs.

  • Avoiding close contact with other people who are sick and stay home when you are sick. Follow CDC guidance regarding isolation and masking if you test positive for COVID-19.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits including getting plenty of sleep, clean and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious foods.