The RSV Outbreak of 2022
Every year from around November to March, doctors see a rise in cases of RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, in young children. Although most cases of RSV are mild, and it is believed that all children under two years have experienced the virus at least once, the illness still hospitalizes thousands each year (some studies show as many as 60,000 hospitalizations each year).
RSV affects small children by creating a mucus buildup in the lungs. This blockage can restrict oxygen intake. In some cases, infants can also experience pneumonia related to RSV and fail to eat, which will require admittance into a hospital. Most mild cases last about two weeks, but in the last couple of months, there has been a significant spike that leads doctors to believe we will see more severe cases this year than ever before.
For starters, despite RSV “season” not usually beginning until November, doctors have also been seeing consistent cases through the summer months. Further proving that the virus came earlier and stronger this year, a single week in October had more cases than any week in the previous two years. Doctors estimate cases are already 60% higher than the peak week of 2021; however, this number is likely lower than the actual number of cases. Even though it is still the start of RSV season, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed as there is already a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers.
No one is entirely sure what has caused such an increase in cases this year, but doctors are confident it is due to an “immunity gap” that was created during the pandemic. When the world shut down, and people were all following the recommended precautions such as sanitizing, wearing masks, and not being around people who were sick, there was a downturn in both RSV and influenza cases as they both spread in similar manners to COVID. Now that people have reemerged into their “normal” routines, children do not have antibodies against common illnesses, leaving them more vulnerable than ever before. Scientists are working on an RSV vaccine, but it won’t be available this year.
With the holidays coming up and everyone making travel plans to see family, you must take the necessary precautions to keep your little ones safe. The easiest and most effective tactics should sound extremely familiar at this point. Keep all areas that your child will come in contact with clean and sanitized. If you know someone isn’t feeling well, kindly suggest holding off your celebrations until they are back to full health. It is especially important to not let people, whether you know them or not, kiss your little ones during the holiday season. Someone may think they are fine, but the symptoms of the virus haven’t set in yet. Finally, consider giving the flu vaccine to your child this year. If your child’s immune system is already compromised from fighting off a particularly violent bout of RSV, they will likely be more susceptible to the flu when that virus makes its rounds in the spring.
Neighbors Pharmacy has a full selection of over-the-counter medications to help your little ones get through a sickness. We also have flu vaccines available!