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RSV spree

Cases of respiratory illness soar as COVID-19 restrictions lift.

respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

As people start to gather again after more than a year of social isolation, there’s been an insurgence of a virus other than COVID-19: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

“Thankfully the number of coronavirus infections is decreasing, but the number of RSV infections has increased,” says Mobeen Rathore, MD, chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Not just in Florida, but in the Southern United States.”

The surge is so prevalent, the CDC issued a health advisory for physicians and other caregivers across parts of the South about increased RSV activity. This includes:

  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

A rise in cases of RSV has also been noted in:

  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

Why this region?

“We don’t know,” said Dr. Rathore. “We also don’t know why it’s occurring at this time of year, as it normally occurs in the fall or winter.”

Therefore, it’s important that physicians are on the lookout for cases.

“We believe the use of masks, good hand hygiene, cough etiquette, social distancing and other preventive measures have contributed to RSV not occurring in the usual season,” Dr. Rathore said. “We usually don’t see many cases in May, June and later.”

Breaking it down

What exactly is RSV? Dr. Rathore described it as a respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms, which may vary by age:

RSV symptoms

Who's at risk?

RSV is more common in children than adults.

“Most kids will become infected with RSV before they are 2 years old,” Dr. Rathore explained. “However, adults and older children can get infected and will have what looks like a cold. People can also get re-infected, for instance if their child brings it home from daycare.”

Cases are typically mild, but older adults and infants can experience severe symptoms.

While the country has been opening back up and social restrictions have been lifted, it’s important to remember basic hygiene practices.

“Wash your hands well and, if you’re sick, wear a mask and practice social distancing,” Dr. Rathore said.

If your child has RSV and is experiencing any severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, you should take him or her to the nearest Wolfson Children’s Emergency Department or call 911.

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