Health Tips Tuesday: rise in RSV cases in children

Health officials are expressing concerns about the surge in RSV infections in children across the United States.
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 2:22 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Health officials are expressing concerns about the surge in RSV infections in children across the United States.

Dr. Charlotte Boney, pediatrician-in-chief at Baystate Children’s Hospital, spoke to Western Mass News about what is causing the surge and the issue facing the medical community.

Why are RSV infections rampant across the country? Are infections high in our area?

Boney: “So great question. If you had asked me this a few years ago, pre-pandemic, RSV and other respiratory illnesses usually surge during the winter months, so they rise in late fall, they peak in January. So, they go away in the spring, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen something very different. The seasonal variation has turned around, so after the first season after COVID-19, we did not see any RSV in our hospital or in our emergency rooms that entire winter and then in the summer, RSV came back. We saw a little bit of a peak last summer. Again, unusual. It went away in the fall when omicron really hit kids hard last winter and then RSV and other viruses started rising again. The other virus like rhinovirus and entirovirus have been surging like crazy in the past six to eight weeks. A lot of kids admitted to our hospital and our intensive care units and now, we are seeing RSV rise quickly, which is very unusual for this time of year.”

Can RSV be prevented?

Boney: “RSV, in most cases, causes a common cold, but young infants and young children with underlying conditions, it can cause severe illness. It can cause pneumonia. We have actually seen this with children with RSV in the winter. In fact, pre-pandemic, about 50,000 kids a year got hospitalized mostly because of RSV, so it’s not the winter yet. It’s the fall and we think RSV and other respiratory viruses are surging because they have not been around for a few years since we have been masking and following all those other infection control measures. Those measures are good at preventing COVID-19 and good at preventing viral infections and here we are, the viruses are back and they are surging. It’s really scary. Our emergency departments are full. Pediatrician hospitals are full and hospitals all over the country are full of children that have these respiratory viruses. So what can you do? You can go back to those preventative measures. Wash your hands like crazy. Do not go to school, work, if you have respiratory symptoms. I heard people say if it’s not COVID, I am just going to go to school. Well, then you are just spreading this virus around.”

What are the treatments for RSV?

Boney: “If you develop respiratory disease severe enough, then that’s oxygen and some other supportive measures to get you through the virus until it starts to fade...Get your flu and COVID vaccines, please!”