The US is seeing an upsurge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases much earlier in the season than usual, leading medical experts to worry that winter could be very tough on the healthcare system. .
RSV infections can occur year-round, but cases tend to spike from late December to mid-February in the United States. This year, however, the country has already seen a dramatic increase in cases in recent weeks, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This follows a high number of RSV cases this summer, which is a particularly unusual time for a flare-up.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that commonly causes a cold in most people, with symptoms including a runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing .
The infection can cause more serious health problems in infants and the elderly. Each year in the United States, approximately 58,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to RSV infection, according to the CDC. It is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under 1 year old in the United States.
“Younger babies may start to look a little more lethargic and have poor feeding. This may be the first sign that he is in distress. They may or may not have a fever, and they may start to have difficulty breathing.These are the first signs parents should look for – lethargy, loss of appetite and difficulty breathing,” said Dr. Priya Soni, Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist at Guerin Children’s, in a statement.
Part of the reason the disease can be so severe for children is that they have no previous immunity to the virus. By age 2, virtually all children will typically have had RSV infection and acquired antibodies against the virus.
The early spike in cases the United States is seeing this year is thought to be a ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent years, with social distancing and higher standards of hygiene, there are more and more children who have never had the opportunity to catch the virus and develop antibody. Now that the hiatus is over and “normal life” is returning, the virus appears to be bouncing back with a vengeance.
With COVID-19 still putting health systems under strain and flu season fast approaching, many doctors and health experts fear this winter will see a huge dreaded “triple demic” of infections. respiratory.
“Health experts are concerned about the confluence of RSV, influenza and COVID-19 as we enter winter. The overlap of these three viruses, as well as others, is certainly a big concern for the next few months,” Soni explained.
“We are already seeing patients testing positive for more than one virus. We are concerned that patients will overcrowd the emergency department and the hospital beds. One thing parents can do is make sure their children get their flu shot and COVID-19 boosters when appropriate,” added Dr. Ira Wardono, pediatric hospitalist at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center.