The CDC has issued a new warning about a virus increasingly spreading in the South that has symptoms similar to COVID-19.
It’s known as respiratory syncytial virus, and it’s a virus that's familiar to most healthcare providers.
“Each year in the United States, RSV leads to on average approximately 58,000 hospitalizations with 100-500 deaths among children younger than 5 years old and 177,000 hospitalizations with 14,000 deaths among adults aged 65 years or older,” the CDC reported.
But the agency claims cases plummeted last year.
“To be honest, we’ve been out of practice thinking about viruses because with all the COVID precautions, it’s kept the viruses at a low level which has been delightful,” Dr. Valerie Scott told Live5 News. Dr Scott is a family doctor with Roper St Francis Family Partners in Mt. Pleasant.
“Everyone was staying home, wearing their masks, washing their hands. Now we’re out and about without our masks. The infants have never been wearing masks, so they’re wide open to get viruses from the community at large,” Scott said.
Adults with RSV usually feel like they have a cold. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing, and the hallmark sign of wheezing, Scott said.
“But in babies and especially premature babies, it can be a life-threatening infection,” Scott said. “So if you have a small infant, I would be mindful about letting them around someone with a cold because that could be the RSV virus.”
In its health alert June 10th, the CDC said if patients have acute respiratory illness with a negative COVID test, physicians should consider then testing them for RSV.
SC DHEC claims RSV is on the radar. Doctors don’t have to report individual RSV cases to the state unless they suspect a cluster or an outbreak, so the agency doesn’t have exact numbers of cases. They claims they’ve received reports from some hospitals noticing a recent increase in cases.
Dr. Scott said like with other virus, antibiotics won’t work for RSV. Patients can only treat the symptoms.
Inhalers, for example, might relieve bronchial spasms.
However, Dr. Scott said there is a monoclonal antibody shot that can be given to prevent infection, specifically for premature babies or those born with chronic lung disease. It’s given during high-RSV season, she said, and the baby would typically get 5 shots the first year.
“We’ve had that shot since 1998...which is interesting because now we’re using monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID,” Scott said.
The best way to prevent the spread? The advice should be habit for all of us after the last year: Wash your hands. Wear a mask. And stay at home if you’re sick.