Respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, is experiencing an increase in cases across southeast Missouri.
The virus, which is most commonly seen in young children, tends to spread through contact and coughing by those infected with RSV, particularly those in daycare. Chelsea Grigery, a pediatrician at Southeast Hospital, says RSV has been on the rise since the holidays.
“There’s probably been less than 100 cases in Southeast Pediatrics over the past few weeks, but there’s seven providers here in the office,” says Grigery. “I personally saw three cases today.”
Grigery says they’ve actually seen fewer cases of RSV compared to last year, but, like the flu virus, the number of cases tends to fluctuate based on the season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 57,000 children younger than the age of 5 are hospitalized annually in the United States due to RSV. Nearly 177,000 older adults are hospitalized annually with the virus.
Although the virus is typically seen in babies 12 months and younger, adults can still become infected. Babies may show symptoms such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, fever, decreased appetite, and even decreased urinary output. Symptoms in adults may appear cold-like, such as coughing, runny nose, and congestion.
Grigery says babies with the virus can wheeze to the point where they could need breathing treatment, such as albuterol or an aerosolized sodium solution to free their airway.
A vaccine for RSV is available, but it’s only given to a specific age group.
“Often, the vaccine is for premature babies who have been on a ventilator or some other airway support,” says Grigery. “It’s not given routinely to children as part of a normal set of vaccines.
If your child shows any symptoms of RSV, she recommends seeking medical care from an urgent care or primary care doctor.