NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is already making the rounds here in Middle Tennessee. As cases and hospitalizations spike for children, doctors are concerned.
Dr. Joseph Gigante, a Professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, says that RSV season is off to an early start, “We’re definitely seeing RSV season starting here in Nashville in Middle Tennessee. And it’s starting earlier than it has done previously.”
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According to Dr. Gigante, cases of RSV would usually rise later in the fall, “RSV typically kind of really mirrors more kind of the flu season where we kind of start to see RSV come up in like November, and it really lasts through the winter months. We’ve definitely been seeing RSV here in Nashville, and we’ve seen children hospitalized with RSV in the late summer and early fall, and definitely many more hospitalizations with RSV that we’re seeing now than we have in previous years.”
For adults, RSV brings run-of-the-mill cold symptoms, but for children, it can be quite severe, “with infants, especially infants less than a year of age, their lungs are much more susceptible to the inflammatory effects and the infectious effects from RSV, so they can get some really severe respiratory symptoms to the point where they need either supplemental oxygen and need to be hospitalized for the supplemental oxygen. And for those infants who are really more severely affected, they sometimes have to go to the intensive care unit.”
Some babies are more susceptible than others, “Infants who are especially susceptible are those who are born prematurely. So premature infants, a lot of times their lungs aren’t fully developed, so they’re more susceptible to RSV infections, and then other diseases that infants sometimes have or conditions, infants sometimes have like heart disease, or congenital heart disease, those kids are at much higher risk for developing some of the complications from RSV.”
If you have an infant, wash your hands frequently and keep sick friends and family members away to prevent the spread of RSV. And remember, RSV isn’t the only respiratory virus circulating this time of year.
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COVID restrictions and widespread masking led to a significant decrease in many respiratory viruses like the flu and RSV. Now that these restrictions are lifted, viruses like RSV are coming back with a vengeance.
So what should parents watch for? Nasal flaring and retractions, where the skin between the ribs pulls in with each breath, can be indicators of RSV.
“The other thing you can sometimes see is kind of some grunting noises when they’re breathing. So it’s that combination of breathing faster, seeing the skin being sucked in, and those grunting noises. And oftentimes when children start to develop the symptoms, that also their appetite will really diminish to the point where they’re, you know, not taking either any breast milk or taking any kind of formula,” said Dr. Gigante.
Dr. Gigante said that anyone who has an infant in their household should wash their hands frequently and keep sick friends and family members away while they are sick.
RSV isn’t the only respiratory virus parents need to keep an eye out for, “We haven’t had a huge number of kids being hospitalized with flu. But as you mentioned, the flu in the southern hemisphere, in Australia, was really bad this year. So the fear is that we’re going to have a really bad flu season.”
With a potentially dire flu season on the way, Dr. Gigante recommends getting your flu shot now. Children six months and older can be vaccinated for the flu.