Respiratory Viruses


Respirator​y Viruses​

Many respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, circulate year-round in the United States and California. Some viruses are more active from October through March, such as influenza (flu)respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and many others.

Respiratory viruses can cause cold or flu-like symptoms. They can spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. You can also pick up the virus by touching contaminated items and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

These viruses can cause serious illness for some people. People who are at higher risk or around those who are higher risk should take extra precautions to stay healthy.

Get prevention strategies and information for common respiratory viruses.​ Already feeling sick? Visit the CDC page: Preventing Spread of Respiratory Viruses When You’re Sick.​​ 

Get Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for everyone aged 6 months and older. Learn why the vaccine is one of our most powerful tools against the virus.

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Symptoms of COVID-19

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. Possible symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Symptoms may change with new COVID-19 variants and can vary by person. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.

Feeling Sick?

Stay home and away from others (including people you live with who are not sick) if you have symptoms that aren’t better explained by another cause.

Seek health care promptly for testing and/or treatment if you have risk factors for severe illnesstreatment may help lower your risk of severe illness.

Protect Yourself from Flu

Flu can be a serious illness that is easily spread from person to person. CDC estimates that flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths each year. The best way to protect yourself and your family against flu is by getting vaccinated. Everyone six months of age and older should receive the flu vaccine every year.

There are many reasons to get a flu vaccine each year:

  • Flu vaccines help keep you from getting very sick from flu. Flu vaccines lower chances of illness and hospitalization.
  • Flu vaccines lower the risk of serious flu complications, especially among older adults or those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Flu vaccines during pregnancy help protect pregnant people and their babies from flu complications, including delivering the baby too early, low birth weight of the baby, and stillbirth.
  • Flu vaccines help babies and young children stay healthy. Flu vaccine helps lower their risk of flu-related complications, hospitalization, and death.
  • Flu vaccines can be given at the same time as other recommended vaccines, such as COVID-19 and RSV.

Where to Get Vaccinated

  • ​At your doctor’s office. Doctors participating in the California Vaccines for Children program offer no-cost vaccines to eligible children 18 years old and younger.
  • Schedule your flu vaccine today on MyTurn. Pharmacies usually accept most insurance, including Medi-Cal.
  • Some local health departments may also offer low- or no-cost flu vaccines.​

What You Need to Know

Alert: There is currently a nationwide supply shortage of nirsevimab (BeyfortusTM) (RSV monoclonal antibody) to protect infants and toddlers against severe RSV disease. 

Immunization during late pregnancy with RSV vaccine is an alternative to nirsevimab from protecting babies from RSV. Check with your doctor and the CDC for more information. The RSV vaccine supply for pregnant people is not affected by the nirsevimab shortage.     


RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a common respiratory virus that often causes colds but can be severe for infants and older adults. It can spread when someone with the virus sneezes or coughs, through close contact with someone who is sick, or by touching infected surfaces and then touching your face without first washing your hands. People with RSV infection typically have fever, cough, runny nose, wheezing—and in very young infants—increased irritability and difficulty breathing. Learn more about RSV symptoms and how to care for people with RSV.

In most years, RSV is most common between October through March. RSV can spread at the same time as  COVID-19 and influenza (flu), so it’s important to protect yourself and others with immunizations from all three viruses.


RSV immunizations are recommended for older adults, pregnant people, and infants.

RSV Vaccine for Older Adults

RSV vaccines can help protect adults aged 60 years and older from RSV. Adults at highest risk for severe RSV who may benefit most from an RSV vaccine include:

  • Older adults
  • Adults with chronic heart or lung disease, such as asthma
  • Adults with weakened immune systems (e.g., HIV, or having cancer treatments)
  • Adults with certain other underlying medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, sickle cell disease)
  • Adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities

You can get your RSV vaccine at the same visit as your flu and COVID-19 vaccines. Reach out to your local doctor, clinic, or pharmacy to ask if RSV vaccine is right for you and about availability. RSV vaccines for adults should be covered by most private insurance, Medicare Part D (PDF) and Medi-Cal. If you do not have health insurance or if your health insurance does not cover the cost of this immunization, please contact your local health department to learn where to go to get low or no-cost immunizations.

RSV Immunizations to Protect Infants & Toddlers

Two immunization products are recommended by CDC to help children fight RSV infections and protect children from getting very sick from RSV: an RSV vaccine given during pregnancy or an RSV immunization given to a child after birth. 

Most infants will likely only need protection form either the prenatal RSV vaccine or infant immunization, but not both. Talk to your doctor about getting RSV vaccine during your pregnancy and about RSV immunization for your baby. 

RSV Vaccine During Pregnancy:

RSV vaccine is recommended for pregnant people at 32 through 36 weeks of pregnancy during the months of September through January to prevent RSV infections in their infants.

You can receive the RSV vaccine on the same day as other vaccines recommended during pregnancy, including Tdap, COVID-19, and influenza.

RSV Immunization for Infants and Toddlers:

An RSV immunization called nirsevimab (Beyfortus®) can help protect infants and toddlers from severe RSV illness. The antibodies in nirsevimab are just like those that develop after a typical vaccine.  RSV immunization is recommended for:

  • All infants under 8 months of age
  • Infants and toddlers 8 through 19 months of age at high risk for severe RSV.

Palivizumab (Synagis), an older RSV immunization, may still be used for children at higher risk who have not yet received nirsevimab. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about recommendations for your child.

RSV immunizations for children should be covered by most private insurance plans. If your child is uninsured, underinsured, Medi-Cal eligible or American Indian/Alaskan Native, they are eligible to receive RSV and other recommended immunizations through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

Other Prevention Tips

Everyday preventative actions can also help prevent the spread of RSV, flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory viruses, including:

  • Staying home if you’re feeling sick.
  • Considering wearing a mask, especially if you are sick or in crowded or indoor areas. High-quality masks continue to be an important tool for preventing the spread of viruses such as RSV, COVID-19 and the flu.
  • Washing your hands regularly. Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water — for at least 20 seconds — is an easy and effective way to stay healthy and slow the spread of viruses.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or arm, or use a disposable tissue. Make sure to wash your hands or use sanitizer and dispose of your tissue afterward.

Resources & Guidance


California developed the SMARTER Plan to prepare Californians for COVID-19 surges and variants. We can apply these SMARTER steps to reduce the spread of all respiratory infections and protect our most vulnerable populations, our communities, and our state. 

SMARTER Steps for Virus Prevention

Stay up to date on recomm​ended vaccines. Vaccines are a core strategy to prevent serious illness and hospitalization.

High quality masks with good fit and filtration can prevent you from catching or spreading a virus. If you know you were exposed, or become ill, wear a mask around others, especially indoors and around those with higher risk.

Be a​​ware of viruses that are spreading around you and in your community and take additional actions to stay healthy. If you have symptoms or are sick or know someone else is sick, then these extra precautions are especially important. Be sure to wash your hands, cover your cough, and get good air ventilation.

Knowing when to protect yourself and loved ones against viruses is also important. Do you or your loved ones belong to one of the higher-risk groups listed below? Or do you plan on visiting someone who is at higher risk? Visit the CDC Risk Factors page for extra precautions to take.

  • Older adults (over 50)
  • Young children
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People with disabilities
  • Pregnant or recently pregnant people
  • People who live in a group setting, such as a skilled nursing facility.
  • People with health conditions such as chronic lung disease (like asthma), heart disease, or obesity.

Testing is an option if you were exposed or have symptoms of a respiratory virus. If you are at higher risk, then testing is recommended so you can get treatment.

Educate yourself. Know when the risk is higher in your community by checking the Respiratory Virus Dashboard or your local health department. Stay home and notify others if you get sick. Take additional actions when you are exposed, have symptoms, or get a positive test result.

Treatments are available for COVID-19 and influenza that can help prevent serious illness for those with risk factors. Treatments work best when started right after symptoms begin.

California’s Respiratory Virus Dashboard​ 

The Respiratory Virus Dashboard tracks COVID-19 and flu when the infection rates are highest. The dashboard tracks positive test result percentages and death rates. These data help to track the spread of respiratory viruses in California and inform the efforts to slow their spread.

Our Actions Save Lives  

Californians can take simple actions to prevent respiratory viruses from spreading. Follow the SMARTER steps to lower your chances of catching a respiratory virus and getting very sick if you do. These actions also lower your chances of spreading the virus to others, including those at higher risk of severe illness.

Visit the Respiratory Virus Prevention Toolkit to learn more.​