Oct 26 (Reuters) – US doctors are warning that a rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases is coinciding with an increase in COVID transmission and an earlier than normal flu season, raising the specter of a ” tripledemia” of respiratory diseases. illness this winter.
In particular, RSV infections in young children would fill some US hospitals to capacity.
“We are already seeing patients testing positive for more than one virus,” pediatrician Dr. Ira Wardono of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, Calif., said in a statement.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Infants are most at risk from RSV because they often cannot cough up secretions caused by the virus and may need airway suctioning or intravenous fluids. Some may need supplemental oxygen. Older children and most adults usually have mild, cold-like symptoms.
On average, RSV causes 58,000 hospitalizations each year in children under 5 and 177,000 hospitalizations in adults 65 and older, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Deaths from RSV are rare in American children, but 14,000 adults die from the virus each year, with the elderly or immunocompromised people most at risk, the CDC said.
WHAT CAN PREVENT RSV?
RSV infection can be prevented the same way one would keep any virus away: stay away from sick people, provide the best possible ventilation when indoors, wear a high-quality mask and keep your hands as clean as possible, said Dr. Jay Varma, chief medical adviser at Kroll.com and director of the Weill Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response.
High-risk infants can receive preventive treatment with monthly doses of Synagis (palivizumab) from Swedish drugmaker Orphan Biovitrum. AstraZeneca Plc and Sanofi SA are seeking US and European approval of Beyfortus (nirsevimab) for the prevention of RSV infections in newborns and infants.
There is no vaccine against RSV, although Pfizer Inc is developing RSVpreF for adults. In the meantime, it’s important “for everyone to keep up to date with their COVID and flu shots,” Varma said.
WHAT CAUSES THIS OVERPRESSURE?
Part of the increase in RSV cases is due to the relaxation of COVID precautions, such as masking and social distancing, which have reduced RSV and flu rates during the pandemic, Varma said.
RSV rates were unusually low in fall/winter 2020-2021, but increased dramatically from spring 2021 and peaked since late August.
The CDC says it cannot yet predict when previous seasonal patterns will return.
Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Richard Pullin
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