COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Across the U.S., hospitals are tracking an unusual spike in respiratory syncytial virus cases in children. Local health officials said they expect this every year, but not as early.
The virus causes around 58,000 hospitalizations annually and 100 to 300 deaths in children under age 5, according to the CDC. For young patients, RSV can be particularly severe.
“The most common thing that we will see in younger kids is a condition called Bronchiolitis,” said Dr. Ben Bring, a physician with OhioHealth. “That’s usually where the virus gets into the respiratory system, it causes inflammation in those airways and it can cause difficulty breathing for those kids.”
The CDC defines RSV as a “common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.” Symptoms usually show up four to six days after infection and can include runny nose, loss of appetite, coughing and sneezing, fever and wheezing.
The recent rise in cases has put the public on notice, and parents are being extra cautious.
“I just think that you have to make sure that nobody is kissing babies on the face, kissing their kids on the face other than their parents,” said Renee Geno, who has a daughter that is 18 months old. “It’s making sure that when you go to the store and stuff you’re washing your carts.”
Dr. Rustin Morse, the chief medical officer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said this is not the time to panic. A spike is expected every year, he said, it’s just occurring earlier. Instead, the focus should be on kids most at risk.
“If your child has other medical conditions, or they have significant symptoms, significant difficulty breathing, certainly if they are changing colors when they cough,” said Morse. “Or if you just have concerns that they’re just having more difficulty than you’d expect from a common cold, that’s the time to contact your physician or if necessary show up to the emergency department.”
Doctors said one of the best things parents can do right now is washing their children’s hands. This is true especially for little ones, because whatever they touch tends to go to their mouth.
Also, keep a close eye on your child’s behavior. If you notice their symptoms getting worse, you can take them to the pediatrician and get a test. RSV, COVID, and the flu can all present the same symptoms.
Doctors are urging everyone to stay diligent because this spike could be just the beginning.
“If anything it’s just getting started. Especially as we get into the winter months,” said Dr. Bring. “That’s usually when these viruses are thriving and spreading. So the next four to six weeks could be a pretty high viral season for us this year.”