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Inside Pediatrics Podcast

BIRMINGHAM (June 15, 2021) – RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a virus that causes respiratory infections in people of all ages, and is one of the most common diseases of early childhood. 

“RSV epidemics occur yearly in the winter and early spring months. RSV cases were very low during the past winter season, likely due to the adoption of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – masking, social distancing and hand washing.  As these mitigation measures have relaxed, we are now seeing an increase in cases of RSV,” said Dr. Shannon Ross, infectious disease physician, Children’s of Alabama.

RSV is spread by direct or close contact with an infected individual through respiratory secretions when someone coughs or sneezes, or when someone comes in contact with contaminated surfaces.

“To protect yourself and your children from RSV, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home when you are sick, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes – all measures we have used for the past year for COVID-19,” Dr. Ross said.

The signs and symptoms of RSV depend on the age of the patient.  “In general, RSV causes upper respiratory infections or pneumonia,” Ross said.

In newborns, RSV can cause fussiness, poor feeding and decreased activity, along with cold symptoms and difficulty breathing.  In older infants, symptoms typically begin with runny nose and cough, and can progress to bronchiolitis or pneumonia with wheezing and labored breathing.  In children and adults, RSV symptoms are typically consistent with a cold with fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose.  In older children and adults with impaired immune systems, RSV can cause severe pneumonia.

Ross said there is no specific medication to treat RSV.  Treatment is all about managing the symptoms as the virus runs its course.  However, for severe illness, children may require hospitalization for oxygen and fluid hydration until the illness improves. Infants or children with impaired immune systems are most at risk for severe disease causing hospitalization.