While it’s now safe to say influenza (AKA the “flu”) is just about everywhere, one might think that’s the only thing we are seeing in our pediatric offices these days. But the truth of the matter is that isn’t the case.
Something we are also seeing in epidemic numbers is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV.) Now RSV may not get the same attention as the flu because we often think of it only as a disease affecting young children (and particularly the infants,) but this year I’ve seen many older children (and even parents) with it who have been knocked back for a good 1-2 weeks.
So for those not aware of RSV, here are 10 important facts about RSV worth keeping in mind:
- Peak time of year (here in the northern hemisphere) is from November to April. Yes, very similar to the flu.
- Most recent numbers show that RSV is responsible for roughly 150,000 pediatric hospitalizations a year here in the U.S. Worldwide, that number is estimated to be nearly 3.5 million hospitalizations a year.
- In adults, RSV is felt to be also a significant, but not always, realized cause of lower respiratory tract infections in adults (particularly the elderly and immunosuppressed.)
- According to the CDC, RSV related pneumonia accounts for 2700 adult and pediatric deaths each year. Worldwide, that number is estimated to be nearly 200,000 deaths a year.
- Transmission of RSV is similar to the flu (and other upper respiratory infections) where direct contact with the secretions is the most common route of transmission.
- RSV can survive for several hours on hands or even surfaces such as clothing or furniture.
- Younger children can suffer from lower respiratory tract infections (either bronchiolitis or pneumonia) and in infants, apnea can occur. In general, intense nasal secretions with significant cough follow for those with upper respiratory tract infections.
- Wheezing occurs in about 1/3 of elderly patients with RSV infection.
- And while the diagnosis can be confirmed by testing the nasal secretions, no specific medication exists for RSV. If wheezing is noted, bronchodilators (e.g. albuterol) may be tried but no absolute guarantee that there will be improvement of the wheezing symptoms.
- For those infants in high risk categories (e.g. premature infants, those with significant congenital heart disease or significant respiratory disease) may qualify for palivizumab (AKA Synagis,) which is an antibody against RSV. Those infants who do qualify for synagis will need it on a monthly basis during RSV season.
And being someone who has already had the flu and RSV this season, 1-2 days of chills and fever from the flu was easier for me to handle than this lingering cough and congestion that takes what seems forever to resolve.
Stay well and please please remember to wash your hands.
- Dr. Jeremy
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