The Rise of RSV and Influenza in Children

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has been in the news due to the rising number of infections in children, however, RSV is not a new disease. The strategies used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also prevented the spread of other respiratory illnesses. As a result, RSV rates in children decreased dramatically over the last few years. As communities have started opening back up the rates of RSV infections have skyrocketed compared to previous years. The most recent data from December 7, 2022, shows that in Texas, around 1,000 cases of RSV have been reported weekly since October. Since other respiratory illnesses such as influenza and COVID-19 are also still on the rise alongside RSV, many hospitals in Texas and in HHS Region VI have reported a shortage of pediatric ICU beds.

RSV is a viral infection that results in cold like symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and fever. In most cases, people who get RSV tend to recover quickly, but in children under 2 years old and older adults, RSV can be more life threatening. In children, especially infants under 6 months old, RSV infection can lead to bronchiolitis (a lung infection) or pneumonia. If symptoms progress to a high fever, wheezing, or difficulty breathing medical care should be sought immediately, especially in younger children.

Although there is no vaccine for RSV, there are vaccines for the flu and COVID-19. Staying up to date on these vaccines will help to reduce the number of illnesses and subsequent burden on the healthcare system. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive an influenza vaccine and stay up to date with the COVID-19 vaccine to help prevent severe disease and limit transmission. Wearing masks in public and avoiding crowded spaces can help limit the spread of these viruses, especially around people who may be more susceptible to severe disease.

-Inchara is a medical student at University Texas of Medical Branch/John Sealy School of Medicine. She enjoys writing about medical and humanities topics and medical education.  




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