New research from the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation (MCRF), Wisconsin's largest private medical research organization, found that, even though the risk of acquiring Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) increases with age, the effects tend to be mild compared to the flu. Many people who were diagnosed with RSV sought out treatment much later than those who had the flu and fewer were hospitalized.

Maria Sundaram, one of the study's co-authors, noted that, despite this positive news, it is still important that older adults be aware of the risks of RSV.

"[RSV] has the potential to cause serious respiratory illness, especially in older adults with weakened immune systems or other pre-existing conditions," said Sundaram.

According to Edward Belongia, director of epidemiology research at MCRF, RSV had been studied primarily among infants until just recently. Additional research is needed to determine why the illness is more common among the elderly.

Though uncommon, severe symptoms of RSV include persistent coughing, high fever, rapid breathing and a bluish hue of the skin.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost every individual is affected by RSV before reaching 2 years old. Bronchitis diagnoses - manifested by prolonged bouts of coughing due to inflamed membranes of the lungs' bronchial tubes—typically start out as RSV infections.