Hospitals Seeing Earlier Cases Of RSV

Doctors are noticing an earlier season of Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.

In typical years, said Michael Cappello, vice chair of pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, “If we started seeing an RSV case at the end of September, it’s like ‘Oh, it’s a little early.’ ” Now, he said, they are seeing increasing admissions for sick kids.

RSV season typically runs from October through March, but this year, cases started cropping up in July in Pennsylvania and even earlier in other areas of the country, according to Dr. Patrick Gavigan, Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

Already, more than 10% of viral tests are coming back positive for RSV. On average, about 3% of tests come back positive—and the season is just starting, Gavigan said.

At the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the positivity rate for RSV is even higher, at 13% to 16% for the past three weeks, according to Wallace Greene, director of the Diagnostic Virology Laboratory at the Medical Center.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory in June to alert health care professionals that older infants and toddlers might be at increased risk of severe RSV-associated illness since they probably haven’t had typical levels of exposure to RSV during the past 15 months.

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