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What is RSV, who is at risk and why cases tend to rise this time of year

RSV 010920
Posted at 9:39 AM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-21 13:42:29-04

There have been reports throughout the United States that hospitals are seeing more patients with Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV causes 58,000 hospitalizations annually among children under age 5.

“So when we start to see it transmit in preschools, and elementary schools, that's generally the age group where we will see this. It can start to affect a lot of other children as well,” Dr. Janice Johnston, chief medical director for Redirect Health, told KNXV.

Adults and older children who are healthy tend to have mild cases if infected.

The CDC said those with the highest risk of contracting a severe case of RSV include:

  • Premature infants
  • Very young infants, especially those 6 months and younger
  • Children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
  • Children with weakened immune systems
  • Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions

Early symptoms tend to include a runny nose, a decrease in appetite, and cough. Those symptoms can worsen, causing inflammation of the small airways in the lung.

Doctors say preventing the spread of RSV is similar to stopping the spread of other diseases, including COVID-19 and the flu. But unlike COVID-19 or the flu, there is currently no vaccine for RSV.

If your child is at a high risk of contracting RSV, the CDC recommends the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Keep your hands off your face
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces
  • Stay home when you are sick

While there is generally an uptick in RSV cases in the fall, the CDC said cases typically peak from late December through mid-February, like other viruses. According to CDC figures, the number of detected RSV cases tripled from late August through early October.