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Preventing Respiratory Viruses


Viral Respiratory Infections

There are many different types of viruses that can affect the breathing passages and cause respiratory illnesses such as a cold or flu-like illness.

Some of the common respiratory viruses include influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, rhinovirus, human metapneumovirus and enterovirus.  Most recently the outbreak that centered in China, the Coronavirus.

How viral respiratory infections spread

Viral respiratory infections are spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes small droplets containing infectious agents into the air. The droplets in the air may be breathed in by those nearby. The viruses are also spread by direct contact with a sick person or indirect contact with hands, tissues or other articles soiled by nose and throat discharges.

Enterovirus and adenovirus infections are also spread through contamination of hands or objects with infected feces.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms vary depending on the particular virus causing the illness. Most respiratory viruses cause cold-like symptoms or flu-like illnesses.

 Common signs and symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • malaise (feeling unwell).


Most people improve within a few days.

Sometimes illness can result in complications. Types of complications depend on the particular virus but may include:

  • pneumonia (lung infection or inflammation)
  • bronchiolitis (inflammation of small air passages in the lungs)
  • croup
  • sinusitis
  • meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
  • encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).


  • If unwell with a viral respiratory infection, try to stay away from childcare, preschool, school and work until well.
  • Wash hands as soon as possible after sneezing or coughing and after contact with nose and throat discharges or articles soiled by these. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover a cough or sneeze with tissue or arm. Dispose of used tissues immediately and wash hands afterwards.
  • Wipe down all frequently touched surfaces regularly with a cleaning cloth dampened with detergent, or with a large alcohol wipe.
  • Avoid sharing cups, glasses and eating utensils with people who have respiratory infections.


No specific treatment is required for mild viral respiratory infections. Most people recover with rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Paracetamol may be used for relief of symptoms but must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years of age unless specifically recommended by a doctor.

Antiviral medication may be used for severe or prolonged viral respiratory infections such as influenza virus infection. Antibiotics do not help even though they are often prescribed.

When to seek medical advice

Seek medical advice if you are concerned about your symptoms or have any of the following:

  • worsening symptoms
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • confusion
  • inability to keep liquids down because of vomiting
  • symptoms of dehydration (such as being dizzy when standing or passing much less urine than normal).


Most of us can battle through a common cold with no major issues. That being said, it is still important to try to prevent having a cold or spreading it to others. When you are feeling under the weather realize the effects it has on you and your work. Fight the urge to cut corners or take shortcuts especially when it comes to working safely when you are sick.  It could get much worse for you or affect others in a more severe way, so wash your hands, be courteous and always be safe.

Contact Lance: 

Site Operations Coordinator
NSTAR Global Services
Mobile +1.208.598.1934

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