The spread of RSV appears to finally be slowing down, but this fall’s severe respiratory illness season is far from over, health officials are now cautioning. Here are all of the updates parents need to know.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests some good news about this year’s “unprecedented” outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): Cases are declining in some parts of the country. This means the virus has most likely peaked or plateaued in certain regions, including the South, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and New England.
As SheKnows previously reported, RSV season came on strong and early this year, burdening hospitals that were already strapped amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and depleting supplies of certain medications. This common respiratory virus can cause serious illness in some high-risk patients, who may require hospitalization to help them breathe.
Children have been especially hard-hit, ostensibly as a result of pandemic-related immunity gaps. Just a few weeks ago, hospitals in 10 states were at or above 80 percent capacity in their pediatric ICUs, CBS News reported.
So, yes, RSV slowing its spread is certainly welcome news, but that’s not the whole story. In a recent press briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned of an “especially worrisome” winter to come. The flu has arrived in tandem with RSV and COVID-19, and it is also straining America’s already burdened healthcare infrastructure.
Per CDC estimates, the flu has already caused 8.7 million illnesses since the start of October. That’s way too close to the 9 million cases estimated for the entire 2021-2022 flu season. What’s more, some 78,000 people have been hospitalized for the flu since October, with 19,500 of those hospitalizations occurring during the week of November 27 alone.
Like RSV, the flu can also cause severe complications for certain populations, including infants, children younger than 2, and children of any age with chronic health conditions. RSV, the flu, and COVID-19 are all respiratory illnesses that present with similar symptoms, so it can be difficult to differentiate between them.
“It is going to be a confusing respiratory infection season,” Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, board chair of the American Medical Association, told NBC News. “Figuring out what’s making people sick is going to be a conundrum.”
Parents, consider this a reminder to stay vigilant about your child’s health this time of year. Preventative measures — including regular hand-washing; proper sneezing and coughing etiquette; and your annual flu shot, which the CDC recommends for everyone 6 months and older — are key. These illnesses can all be transmitted via respiratory droplets, so wearing an effective face mask that covers your nose and mouth can’t hurt.
If you child falls ill, don’t panic, but definitely keep them home from school, childcare centers, or any other congregate settings, where these ultra-contagious illnesses spread easily. Take them to their pediatrician quickly for diagnostic testing. Depending on which illness they have, your child might be eligible for pharmaceutical treatments, such as Tamiflu, which can ease their symptoms.
Before you go, check out our favorite all-natural cough and cold products for kids: