RSV surged in early 2022. Here’s what Kansas City residents need to know about the respiratory virus | KCUR 89.3

RSV surged in early 2022. Here’s what Kansas City residents need to know about the respiratory virus |  KCUR 89.3

The risk of contracting respiratory viruses tends to increase as temperatures drop. This year, however, health care systems are being overwhelmed by surges in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, earlier than anticipated.

An abnormally high number of RSV infections, particularly among infants and children, is clogging hospitals that are already stretched to capacity. health officials now they are warning winter could bring a “tripledemia”.

In Missouri, the five-week average for cases of RSV registered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it was 440, compared to 395 cases the previous week.

But what can parents do about the virus, and how concerned should Kansas City residents be about the surge? Here’s what several local health officials are saying about best practices this winter.

Who is more vulnerable?

RSV was first reported in 1956. The virus presents as a mild cold-like illness in adults, but can be particularly dangerous in children, for whom pneumonia and bronchiolitis are common side effects.

“For most kids, we think of it as a rite of passage that means in the first year of life or certainly the first two years of life,” said Marianne Jackson, Dean of the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine. , during a recent appearance on KCUR’s Up to Date. “Virtually 100% of children will experience this viral infection.”

In a typical year, the CDC reports approximately 58,000 hospitalizations of children under the age of five with RSV. Among adults older than 65 years, about 177,000 are hospitalized each year with RSV.

While children may not get the virus as often, they are at higher risk. Your smaller lungs and muscles aren’t strong enough to cough or sneeze out the mucus that fills your airways.

Why is RSV increasing so soon?

RSV is usually prominent from mid-November through April.

But this year, experts have documented an unprecedented rise in cases beginning in the summer. While the exact reasons for this are unclear, Jackson noted that it could have to do with restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

She said very few cases were detected during the first year of the pandemic, but now that more people are away from home, the virus is spreading more easily.

“The truth of the matter is that for a lot of the situations where kids present to emergency rooms, those visits could be a burden,” Jackson said.

How is it diagnosed?

In mild cases of RSV, symptoms often present similar to those of the common cold. According to the American Lung Associationtests are usually not required to diagnose an infection.

A doctor may suspect RSV based on medical history, a physical exam, or the time of year, and will often perform laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis. The most common test is a mouth swab or a blood test to check the white blood cell count.

Home tests are not widely available except through a health care provider or health department.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will provide drive through RSV, flu and COVID-19 testing at two St. Louis locations starting November 10.

What can parents do to keep their children healthy?

As with COVID-19 and the flu, health officials recommend frequent handwashing, being mindful of how you feel, and cleaning surfaces when possible.

University Health pediatrician Jennifer McBride recommends that parents of sick children keep them hydrated and use a humidifier or nasal sprays.

“What that does is it helps keep the mucus thinner so it’s easier for the baby to breathe,” McBride said.

McBride said that if a child’s ability to breathe is significantly hampered or if they are not drinking enough, it may be time to go to the hospital.

What about a vaccine?

There is no vaccine for RSV, but there is reason to be optimistic that it is coming.

On Tuesday, Pfizer announced a large international study which found that vaccinating pregnant mothers was approximately 82% effective in preventing cases of RSV in the first 90 days of their babies’ lives. At six months, the vaccine was still 69% effective.

No safety concerns for mothers or their babies were reported.

However, health officials recommend that people still get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu to help reduce the burden on hospitals and ensure people with severe cases of RSV can be seen immediately.

“For those who are very young, RSV is definitely a problem,” said Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Kansas. “We know that influenza can also cause very serious illness. And then, of course, COVID. So it’s vitally important to protect yourself and get vaccinated against them.”

Anyone older than six months can get a flu shot and a COVID-19 shot. Bivalent COVID boosters became available for ages five and older in September.

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