RSV Surge Among Kids

August 16, 2021

Health Alert For Kids

A nationwide health alert for a respiratory virus among children.
And it's not COVID-19.
What To Know. Why It Matters.

What Is RSV?

  • RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) impacts the lungs & breathing passages. It is common among children, w/ “virtually all children” getting it by age 2 (CDC).
  • Most cases resemble a common cold but can result in more severe illness when it affects the lower lungs. Children under age 2 are most at risk for severe cases.
  • Treatment: “There is no specific treatment” & “researchers are working to develop vaccines and antivirals.” Most infections resolve on their own, but symptoms can be managed w/ over-the-counter medicines.

A Surge Of Cases

  • Pediatric hospitals throughout the U.S., most commonly in the South, are seeing a surge in kids with RSV.
  • Another theme nationwide: kids diagnosed with both RSV & COVID-19, which have similar symptoms but different tests.
  • Cases appear more severe: A NYC hospital study found that 81% of kids admitted to the hospital for RSV in the spring of 2021 were admitted to the PICU, compared with 45% admittance of kids with RSV to the PICU in 2019-2020.
"… It’s the first time it’s ever happened like this."

Dr. Mary Suzanne Whitworth, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, on the surge in RSV during summer months rather than the typical fall/winter months. Texas has seen a spike in RSV cases since the end of June. With school resuming around the country and an uptick in COVID-19 cases among children, health officials are encouraging parents & doctors to be “extra vigilant” when observing symptoms.

“… we’re seeing a ton of respiratory illness in infants and small children."

Dr. Patricia Chamber, Chief Medical Officer at Niswonger Children’s Hospital in TN. She says the easing of COVID-19 restrictions such as social distancing led to “a very good opportunity for infectious diseases to spread” among kids (especially those under 2 years old suddenly returning to more “normal” play). Doctors say they have seen the “earlier” arrival not just of RSV but other respiratory viruses as well.

The U.S. isn’t the only place experiencing this unique uptick in cases. Areas such as Tokyo & Australia have recorded a spike in RSV cases, particularly during warmer months. Tokyo experienced its largest increase in RSV cases since they began monitoring the case count in 2003. Something To Note: A small 1992 study found RSV cases just as prevalent in the summer though not as often diagnosed, leading to a question about how heightened awareness for respiratory disease is *also* a factor in a noted rise in cases.

RSV in Infants and Young Children (CDC)

Some cases are more severe when it hits the lower lungs (ABC8 News – Richmond, VA)

Symptoms and Care (CDC)

Delayed Seasonal RSV Surge Observed During the COVID-19 Pandemic (NYC Study)

Report on RSV cases at a Tennessee children’s hospital

Texas children and children’s hospitals are under siege from two viruses: RSV and COVID-19 (The Texas Tribune)

RSV cases in Tokyo

Summertime respiratory syncytial virus infection: epidemiology and clinical manifestations (1992 study)

by Jenna Lee,