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Springfield pediatricians see rise in patients with RSV, uncommon for summer months

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 8:42 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning parents about a national rise in the respiratory infection RSV, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, this summer.

RSV is common in the fall and winter, similar to the flu season, but not very common in the warmer months. Mercy pediatrician Dr. Laura Waters says her office didn’t see as many cases during the typical season, but they are seeing an uptick now.

”I had a couple of weeks ago about five or six kids who were actually seen over one weekend in the emergency room,” Dr. Waters says. “Later that week I actually had a child that ended up in the ICU with it.”

Symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, a fever and coughing. For most older children or adults, it’s similar to symptoms of a minor cold. However, Dr. Waters says RSV can cause severe illness in infants.

“Their airways are smaller,” Dr. Waters says. “They’re more likely to kind of get filled up with some of the mucus.”

It can lead to pneumonia or bronchitis. Dr. Waters says she is most concerned about premature babies contracting the virus.

“Some of those premie babies actually qualify for a medication to try and prevent them from getting RSV to decrease hospitalization risk because they are such higher risk babies,” Dr. Waters says. “But right now we don’t have that available to them because it’s not the typical season.”

RSV is spread through air droplets and direct contact with someone who is infected. Adults and children can pass the virus to each other, so Dr. Waters says it’s really important for people to continue good hand washing.

Jordan Valley pediatrician Dr. Meleah Morales says masking to prevent COVID-19 contributed to preventing the spread of RSV last winter.

“The measures we were taking to prevent COVID maybe did a better job even of preventing those other infections,” Dr. Morales says.

Dr. Morales says kids also weren’t exposed to as many germs during that time, which can impact the immune system.

“People were staying home and kids were wearing masks in school and things like that and so maybe their immune systems weren’t getting the practice that they normally would get to fight off other normal infections too,” Dr. Morales says.

It might not just be RSV that will see an increase in cases.

“Since we have stopped masking we have actually kind of opened pandora’s box of illnesses,” Dr. Waters says. “We are seeing a lot of illnesses start to pop up that we were not seeing when we were masking.”

Dr. Waters says if your child is wheezing in these warmer months and doesn’t have asthma, it’s important to bring them to the doctor and get them checked out.

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