TUESDAY, Aug. 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) — While the emergence of COVID-19 cases in the United States dominates the news, an old viral foe has been making a quieter return.
In late spring, children’s hospitals in the United States began reporting an unexpected rise in serious infections caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Unlike COVID-19, RSV is an entrenched enemy that typically appears in late fall, peaks in winter, and nearly disappears by summer.
In most people, respiratory syncytial virus causes nothing more than cold-like misery, such as a runny nose and cough. But it can lead to serious lung infections in babies, especially premature babies and young children with certain medical conditions.
RSV is the most common cause of Pneumonia In children younger than 1 year of age, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also behind most cases of bronchiolitis, as the small airways are affected by bronchiolitis lungs become inflamed.
When respiratory syncytial virus penetrates deeply into the lungs, young children can suffer from it same You may need to be admitted to the hospital to receive oxygen and fluids.
In June, the CDC warned that children’s hospitals in the South were seeing an unusual rise in children infected with RSV.
Now, this pattern is appearing in other parts of the United States.
At Children’s Primary Hospital in Salt Lake City, there has been a spike in positive RSV tests in the past few weeks, according to Dr. Per Geistland, who works at the Utah Hospital.
During a recent hospital briefing on RSV, he said the hospital’s current RSV numbers are similar to what they were in early January.
“We’re watching this closely because we’re concerned that those trends will really start to pick up, and we’ll start to see more disease,” Geistland said.
One reason for concern, he said, is that a non-seasonal rise in RSV is occurring alongside a rise in COVID-19 cases in children, due to the more contagious infections. delta variable.
At some other hospitals, experts cautioned that the combined trends are draining resources too little. last week, Texas Children’s Hospital In Houston, it said it will now require all of its workforce to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said “bold action” was needed in the face of the double mutations in COVID and RSV.
The hospital has reportedly seen more than two dozen children infected with both COVID-19 and RSV.
However, different groups of children in general are at risk of contracting the two viruses, said Dr. Larry Kosulik, of Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University in Chicago.
He explained that respiratory syncytial virus is ubiquitous, and for older children whose immune systems have been exposed, it is simply a cause of colds. So the virus poses a primary threat to babies – especially premature babies and babies under 6 months old.
according to Center for Disease ControlMore than 2 million American children see a doctor for RSV infection in a typical year. About 58,000 end up in hospital.
There is no vaccine against RSV. But, Kosulik said, there is a way to help prevent severe infection in some high-risk children: an injectable drug called palivizumab.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the drug be given to some premature infants in the first year of life, and to young infants with highly hydrating conditions. immune system. The injections are given monthly, for up to five months, usually beginning in November.
But last week, AAP Pediatricians advised to consider starting palivizumab now.
“With the level of RSV activity that we’re seeing now, we’re trying to publish that in the summer,” Geistland said.
What’s going on? It’s fairly simple, according to Kociolek and Gesteland: At the beginning of the epidemic, it was pervasive social distancing And wearing masks, all RSV cases have disappeared, and they have remained low through the 2020-2021 regular season.
Then, as restrictions eased and large gatherings became the norm again, people came into contact with pathogens, including RSV, that were waiting, Geistland said.
Besides medications for at-risk children, Kosulik said parents can also help protect children from respiratory syncytial virus by limiting their exposure to large gatherings or people with exposure. cold symptoms.
The early symptoms of RSV — fever, cough, and congestion — can look a lot like other respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. In general, Geistland said, testing is the only way to be sure the virus is the culprit.
According to the AAP, nearly all young adults recover from RSV on their own. But if a child is wheezing or showing other signs of trouble breathing, parents should call their pediatrician, Kosulik said.
More on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Respiratory syncytial virus.
Sources: Per Gesteland, MD, Hospital, University of Utah Health/Primary Children’s Hospital, Salt Lake City; Larry Kociolek, MD, assistant professor, pediatrics, Northwestern Feinberg University School of Medicine and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago