MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After the 2022 surge of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases filled hospitals with sick infants and children, doctors at WVU Medicine Children’s predict that numbers could begin to climb in the next few weeks.
RSV is the leading cause of hospitalizations in children who are less than a year old.
In this region, RSV season lasts from October to late April or early May.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention RSV Surveillance Map for last year, West Virginia saw widespread RSV infections in late September and early October.
“There are many theories as to the cause of the severity,” Jeffrey Lancaster, M.D., associate chief medical officer for WVU Medicine Children’s, said. “One likely cause is decreased RSV immunity in the population from isolation practices like social distancing and mask usage during the COVID pandemic.”
It’s unclear if this RSV season will be as severe, but there are precautions people can take to stay safe.
RSV is primarily spread through direct contact. It can survive for several hours on hands and surfaces after wiping noses, coughing, or sneezing.
WVU Medicine Children’s recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Once exposed, symptoms of RSV can appear within four-to-six days and last up to 14 days, depending on the severity of the infection.
If your child has any of the following symptoms, seek medical care immediately:
- Difficulty breathing or breathing too fast
- Flaring of the chest while breathing
- Indentation of the skin between ribs, under the rib cage, or above the sternum
- Showing blueness in the face or body
- Long pauses when breathing
Some children, like babies who are less than six-months old, premature infants, those with chronic lung or heart disease, patients exposed to secondhand smoke, and those with an immune system deficiency, are more at risk for severe RSV infections than others.
Safety during RSV season is important because there is no cure or effective treatment for the virus.
If your child is diagnosed, focus on symptom relief, like staying hydrated, fever control, and nasal suctioning. Do not use over-the-counter medications to stop a cough.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug that would provide immunity to RSV, and a study showed it did decrease the severity of the virus and hospitalizations.
“The hope is that this new medication will be a game changer as we battle RSV,” Dr. Lancaster said. “I will recommend it for my patients that are eligible. Your healthcare provider will help you make the best decision for you and your family.”
This medication has only been approved for infants who are less than eight-months-old.
To learn more about RSV and preventive measures you can take, watch the latest episode of WVU Medicine’s Tuesday Talks.
For more information on WVU Medicine Children’s, visit WVUKids.com.