Some children’s hospitals in the United States are experiencing a surge in common respiratory illnesses that can cause serious respiratory problems in babies.
RSV cases dropped dramatically two years ago as the pandemic closed schools, nurseries and businesses. I noticed an amazing increase.
Well, I’m back again. Physicians are also prepared for how RSV, influenza, and COVID-19 combine to strain hospital resources.
“I call this an emergency,” said Dr. Juan Salazar of Children’s Hospital of Connecticut. At Children’s Hospital of Connecticut, RSVs are rotating patients into playrooms and other spaces not normally used as beds. The agency considered using a National Guard field hospital, but has set that option aside for now.
Let’s see what RSV and the recent surge mean.
What is RSV?
It stands for respiratory syncytial virus and is a common cause of mild cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever.
Infected people are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. Infants and people with weakened immune systems can spread RSV for up to 4 weeks. Several candidates are being tested, but there is no vaccine for it.
Who will it affect?
Anyone can become infected with RSV. However, it poses the greatest threat to infants, the elderly, and other vulnerable people who can contract serious airway and lung infections.
Among children under 5 years of age in the United States, RSV typically leads to 58,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 deaths annually.
Among adults over the age of 65, RSV causes 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths each year.
For babies, breathing difficulties can interfere with eating. Dr. Melanie Kitagawa of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston said more than 40 children have been infected with her RSV.
“They breathe fast and take deep breaths. You can see them using their chest muscles to help them breathe,” Kitagawa said. “These are children who have difficulty bottle feeding because their breathing is affected and they cannot coordinate both at the same time.”
why is it increasing now?
The virus is hitting highly vulnerable babies and children who were protected from common bugs during the pandemic lockdown.
The immune system may not be ready to fight the virus after more than two years of masking, according to Dr. Elizabeth Mack of the Medical University of South Carolina, which provided protection.
“South Carolina is drowning in RSV,” Mack said in a news release. She said the number surged earlier than usual this year.
In the case of babies, the mother may not have been infected with RSV during pregnancy, and this may have provided the child with some immunity.
U.S. health officials have noted an increase in nationwide reports of respiratory illness this month, at least in part due to an early flu epidemic in much of the South. It is said that
More than 7,000 tests reported positive for RSV last week, according to CDC statistics. That’s more than the previous surge.
Is there a cure?
There is no specific treatment, so the only option is to manage symptoms and let the virus take its course. Your doctor may prescribe oral steroids or an inhaler to help you breathe easier.
In severe cases, hospitalized patients may obtain oxygen, a breathing tube, or a ventilator.
What do doctors recommend?
Wash your hands thoroughly and stay home when you feel unwell to prevent the spread of the virus.
Dr. Russell Migita of Seattle Children’s Hospital, whose RSV is on the rise, says “don’t hesitate” to go to the emergency department or call 911 if you’re worried your child may have a serious breathing problem. I recommend that you call
For less serious medical problems, call your regular health care provider for advice, use telemedicine, or seek emergency care, Migita said.
In Chicago on Saturday, Dr. Juanita Mora examined a family in which all five children, ages 3 to teens, had RSV. Afraid of what lies ahead this winter, she’s telling everyone to get a flu shot and her COVID-19 booster.
“We don’t want a triple whammy, a triple pandemic,” Mora said.
Associate Press/Report for America reporter James Pollard contributed from Columbia, South Carolina. AP Medical His Writer Contributed by Mike Stobbe.
The Associated Press’ Health Sciences Division is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Division. AP is solely responsible for all content.