RSV Cases on the Rise

In a nutshell…
Cases of the contagious viral respiratory illness known as RSV are on the increase in the U.S. This article provides general and practical information on RSV, including national statistics, symptoms, warning signs of severe infection, and prevention.

This winter doctors arereportinga surge in cases of respiratory syncytial (pronouncedsin-SISH-uhl)病毒,簡單地稱為“RSV”。根據這一點U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus may severely affect premature babies, young infants, adults over the age of 65, and those people with chronic lung disease, heart problems, or compromised immune systems. The CDCreports,on average, RSV leads to about 2.1 million outpatient visits and over 57,000 hospitalizations annually among children younger than five years old. Approximately 177,000 older adults are hospitalized and an estimated 14,000 die of RSV each year.

How RSV Spreads

RSV is highly contagious and most prevalent in fall, winter, and spring. It spreads through close contact with infected people, through the air with coughing and sneezing, and through contact with surfaces contaminated with infected mucous or saliva. The virus can survive on surfaces such as toys, doorknobs, and countertops for several hours, according toMontreal Children’s Hospital website. The virus can be destroyed on surfaces by applying a chlorine bleach solution (see below).

A Common Illness in Babies and Young Children

CDC notes nearly all children will have an RSV infection by their second birthday. In children under one year of age, it is the most common cause ofinflammationof the small airways in the lungs (known as bronchiolitis) andinfectionof the lungs (pneumonia). Symptoms resemble those of a cold or flu, and include runny nose or nasal congestion, cough, wheezing, reduced appetite, and fever. Most people recover from RSV within a week or two. CDC recommends calling your healthcare provider if you or your child has difficulty breathing, are not drinking enough fluids, or have worsening symptoms.


There is no vaccine for RSV. “All we have in our toolbox,” notes Dr. Dan McGee, a pediatric hospitalist from Grand Rapids, Michigan ina recent interview, “are ways to help the child breathe easier until their body fights off infection.” Dr. McGee makes the excellent point thatgetting a flu vaccinecan help limit the potential for multiple viral infections in children who end up in the intensive care unit. He explained: “The last thing in the world you want to do is have two different respiratory illnesses going on at the same time.”

TheCDC statesa drug called palivizumab (pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb)可以幫助防止某些嬰兒和兒童的嚴重RSV疾病治療嚴重疾病的高風險。然而,它不能幫助治愈或治療那些已經患有嚴重RSV病的人。According to WebMD, doctors may give monthly shots of palivizumab to infants at high risk during peak RSV season.

Preventing RSV

Best practices for preventing viral infections such as RSV include:

  • Wash handsfrequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds
  • 避免觸摸你的臉,眼睛和鼻子,特別是當您在可能受到汙染的地區時,如日間護理中心,醫療保健設施和公共交通車輛
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands
  • Stay home from work, school, or childcare settings when sick
  • 清潔和消毒經常觸摸表麵,用1:10稀釋的普通氯漂白劑和水(例如,加入一杯漂白劑到九杯水)

A Word to Parents and Care Givers

值得注意的是,對於大多數嬰兒和年輕children, an RSV infection is similar to the common cold, and at-home care for RSV works well. That said, it pays to be aware of the illness, its symptoms, and its potential complications for worsening symptoms.

Ralph Morris, MD, MPH, is a Physician and Preventive Medicine and Public Health official living in Bemidji, MN.

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