The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is issued a health advisory June 10, 2021 to notify clinicians and caregivers about increased interseasonal Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) activity across parts of the Southern United States.
It is not the norm to have respiratory illness in summer months. Things have changed resulting from the pandemic due to COVID-19’s eased restrictions. Experts are observing adverse health issues, especially among children as we unmask and step up social interaction. The news of children getting infected with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is making headlines.
RSV is a common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under a year old. The virus leads to about 58,000 hospitalizations annually, with 100 to 500 deaths among children younger than five years. (Sulaski Wyckoff 2021)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the health advisory to Texas to help control increasing cases. The guidelines advise clinicians and caregivers to be aware of the typical clinical presentation of RSV for different age groups. The CDC also encourages broader testing for RSV among patients presenting with acute respiratory illness who test negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. RSV can be associated with severe disease in adults.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
During the cold season, respiratory viruses substantially contribute to morbidity in infants and toddlers. In these very young children respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the main agent causing severe infections in the lower respiratory tract. A considerable number of affected children require hospitalization for adequate care because of respiratory distress, oxygen dependency, or apnea. (Abels, et al 2001)
Know that RSV is contagious and spreads when a child comes into contact with fluid, respiratory droplets from an infected person’s mouth or nose, or any contaminated surface and then touches their mouth, eyes, or nose. (Mayo Clinic 2021)
In some cases, RSV can cause severe infection in children and premature infants, not excluding older adults, people with pre-existing heart and lung disease, or a weak immune system.
The Lung Association is urging parents and caretakers to watch for the following symptoms of RSV in children:
- Mild cold symptoms like runny nose, cough, fever, congestion, and sore throat. You may also notice young infants feeling irritable, tired, and having difficulty breathing normally.
- A wheezing or barking cough can be an indication of severe illness. In this case, the virus spreads to the lower respiratory tract, causing inflammation of the small airways entering the lungs leading to pneumonia or bronchiolitis.
- In extreme cases, infants can start having short, shallow, and rapid breathing. It’s identified as “caving-in” of the chest in between the ribs and under the ribs (chest wall retractions), “spreading-out” of the nostrils with every breath (nasal flaring), and abnormally fast breathing. Their mouth, lips, and fingernails may also turn a bluish color due to a lack of oxygen.
(Taylor and Hernandez 2021)
The recent coronavirus disease and RSV are both respiratory viruses; some of the symptoms between the two can be common. When the child is RSV infected, it lowers the immunity and increases the risk of COVID-19 infection. In either case, parents should be vigilant and seek medical help if one or more symptoms arise.
When to Seek Medical Help
With self-care, most RSV infections generally wear off after two weeks. But, speak to your doctor immediately if your child is at the risk of severe illness, has continued troubled breathing, persistent cough, is running a high fever, or the skin color changes to blue, particularly around lips and nails.
According to the CDC, children or adults who have severe symptoms should go to a hospital as they might have to be put on oxygen or intubated.
Your healthcare provider can ask about any recent illness in your family or other children in childcare or school, family history, etc. The process helps in diagnosis, running a painless PCR test. Many may be aware of PCR testing as the rapid test for COVID-19. PCR testing is a fundamental process for diagnosing RSV in infants and children. When time is of the essence, find an emergency room with on-site PCR testing. It can be the difference between life and death for a child infected with RSV.
“CDC Advises Broader Testing for RSV Due to Regional Spikes.” Edited by Alyson Sulaski Wyckoff, American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP News, 10 June 2021, www.aappublications.org/news/2021/06/10/rsv061021.
Mayo Clinic, Staff. “Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Jan. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/respiratory-syncytial-virus/symptoms-causes/syc-20353098.
Hernandez, Haley. “Warning to Parents: CDC Issues Health Advisory after RSV Cases Rise across the South, Including Texas.” Edited by Brittany Taylor, KPRC, KPRC Click2Houston, 1 July 2021, www.click2houston.com/health/2021/06/30/warning-to-parents-cdc-issues-health-advisory-after-rsv-cases-rise-across-the-south-including-texas/.
CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Increased Interseasonal Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Activity in Parts of the Southern United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 June 2021, emergency.cdc.gov/han/2021/han00443.asp.
Abels, S, et al. “Reliable Detection of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection in Children for Adequate Hospital Infection Control Management.” Journal of Clinical Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology, Sept. 2001, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88309/.