“RSV is very contagious and very prevalent in the school system as well as throughout daycare centers and in homes,” Dr. Reginald Washington told FOX31 KDVR-TV on Jan. 12, adding that “COVID is increasing in its prevalence” and impacting children the second most, with the adenovirus being third.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms in people of all ages. Doctors say that the virus is so common that many children will have been infected with it before they are two years old.
RSV is mild in most children and goes away in a week or two but for some—who are immunocompromised or have a lung or heart disease—it can be quite severe.
RSV outbreaks usually occur from the fall through the spring, but an increase in RSV cases across the Southern parts of the United States prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a health advisory in June 2021.
Other countries also experienced a spike in RSV out of season. Public Health England, responsible for improving and protecting the country’s health and wellbeing, issued a notice encouraging parents “to look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children” in July 2021. The agency says the increase was a result of the “various restrictions in place [during the winter of 2020] to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), there were far fewer infections in younger people” that “many will not have developed immunity.”
Doctors in Queensland, Australia saw a significant rise in RSV cases in children between January and April of last year. Summer in Australia began Dec. 1, 2020, and ended on Feb. 28, 2021. The northeastern state recorded a total of 378 RSV cases in 2021 compared to 88 cases for all of 2019 and 70 cases in 2020.
Dr. Damian Roland, honorary professor of pediatric emergency medicine at Leicester University said that regardless of the disease, the focus should be on the signs and symptoms of the child, and not making parents afraid of the illness.
“From [the] parent point of view [it] doesn’t matter if [the] child has RSV, #COVID19 or [an]other virus. Decision making should be on their wellness not the disease,” Roland said on Twitter on Jan. 12.
He added, “My comment is we are creating fear in parents of particular diseases rather than how their child is. If your child has fever but is well & drinking the cause of that fever is irrelevant (but please get a COVID test as per national policy).”
Dr. Lynora Saxinger, infectious diseases expert and associate professor at the University of Alberta listed the symptoms that parents should be aware of and when to bring their child to the doctor or call Emergency Medical Services.
“Listen. Red flag symptoms for KIDS with virus infection: (Both RSV which is generally tough at this time of year, and has come back after a year off, and COVID19): my colleagues are seeing BOTH viruses causing ‘croup’—even in older kids,” Saxinger wrote on Twitter on Jan. 12.
🚩 red flag symptoms for KIDS with virus infection:
(Both RSV which is generally tough at this time of year, and has come back after a year off, and COVID19):
my colleagues are seeing BOTH viruses causing “croup”- even in older kids. Respiratory viruses usually
— Dr. Lynora Saxinger 🇨🇦 *answers DM not mentions (@AntibioticDoc) January 12, 2022
RSV causes “an estimated 33.1 million acute lower respiratory tract infections worldwide and 3.2 million hospitalizations in children under 5 years,” according to The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
The CDC says that there is currently no specific treatment for infection with RSV, but the World Health Organization (WHO) says that a vaccine may be “available in the near future.”
“Fortunately, several vaccine candidates are now in the human testing phase targeting young children, older adults, and pregnant women, and an effective safe vaccine is likely to be available in the near future,” the WHO said.