RSV concerns heading into the cold season

NOW: RSV concerns heading into the cold season

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- With the cold months swiftly approaching, health officials are staying alert when it comes to cold, flu, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). 

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve definitely started to see an uptick in our cases of RSV,” said Karen Davis, M.D., a pediatric and newborn hospitalist at Saint Joseph Health System. 

RSV season is here, but thankfully, the respiratory virus is going back to pre-pandemic trends—starting later in the year. 

“This year, it’s a little bit later with the peak than it was last year,” Davis.

“Last year, it was very scary when we saw early rises in the RSV numbers,” said Dr. Marlon Brathwaite, a pediatrician at Goshen Health.   

Concerns are swirling after last year’s spike in cases, along with the flu, and, of course, COVID-19.

“Quarantining measures decreased, masking decreased,” Brathwaite said. “We saw early rise in rates of RSV, and also increasing hospitalizations, to the point where hospitals were fully booked.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, newborns and young children didn’t build an immunity to RSV, causing cases of the illness to skyrocket when mitigations lifted. 

“RSV has been around for a while. It’s always been the number one reason for kids being hospitalized in the US, especially under the age of one,” Brathwaite said. 

For parents, RSV will look like a common cold. 

“Starts off as congestion, runny nose, cough, they can have some fever,” Davis said. “Where you really start to get concerned is if you notice your child is starting to have labored breathing.”

She said to make sure to monitor sick babies and toddlers.

“What happens is, those symptoms will progress to affect the lower respiratory tract, so the small airways in the lungs. And that’s when kids are likely to end up in the hospital,” Davis said. 

Handwashing, social distancing, and the new RSV vaccine, just approved this year, are all ways to prevent the spread of RSV. 

But just like the common cold, it will be with us each cold season. 

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