The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a warning about an alarming increase in reported cases of respiratory syncytial virus or RSV. Sometimes referred to as the RSV flue, healthcare providers warn that it can pose a dangerous threat, especially to young children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Over 57,000 hospitalizations, 500,000 emergency department visits, and 1.5 million outpatient clinic visits among children under 5 years of age are attributed to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections each year in the United States.”
The recent uptick in cases is causing concern because summer is not typically RSV season. RSV season usually coincides with flu season and presents itself in fall and winter. This recent surge has the CDC recommending increased testing to properly diagnose RSV.
Symptoms of RSV are typically flu-like, including coughing, congestion, runny nose, and possibly fever. These symptoms generally appear about four to six days after infection, and while they manifest in healthy adults as what most likely amounts to a nasty cold, they can be much more dangerous for young children and the elderly.
”While most children will contract RSV at some point, for certain groups of kids the danger is much more significant,” Dr. Michael Forbes Pediatric & Adolescent Intensive Care Specialist and the Director of PICU Clinical Research & Outcomes Analysis at Akron Children’s Hospital, tells Parentology. Again, for most children, RSV will come and go as a fairly normal upper respiratory illness, but for those children in the “at risk” category it can leady to something far more significant, including hospitalization.
There are three primary categories that put children at risk for complications from RSV:
- Babies who are born pre-term
- Babies who have congenital heart disease
- Babies who have chronic lung disease
If your child falls into one of these categories and is experiencing any symptoms, it’s important to get them tested for RSV as soon as possible. “Once they start having sneezing, mucus production out of their noses, if they start coughing—you want to notify your pediatrician right away. Particularly if you’re in that pre-term, heart disease, chronic lung disease category, because it can move really, really quickly. You really want to bring those kids in as soon as possible,” Forbes says.
RSV is spread through airborne droplets when someone sneezes or coughs. The best way to prevent RSV is by practicing good hygiene: frequent washing of hands, disinfecting surfaces, and isolating from anyone you think might be symptomatic.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for RSV, though many are in development, and there is no specific treatment. RSV is not a new virus and generally causes no more than some general discomfort. However, those at high risk should remain diligent about prevention and seek medical treatment at the onset of symptoms to be sure it doesn’t progress to something more dangerous.