CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Pediatricians in Northeast Ohio are noticing a rise in Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases.
RSV typically affects children, but older adults and the elderly can also have a fairly significant course. Doctors say the virus impacts the lower respiratory tract and causes cold-like symptoms.
“Usually it results in an infection that results in some coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath,” said Dr. John Carl, chair of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
According to Dr. Carl, RSV infections usually occur during the fall and winter, which means, the couple dozen cases diagnosed recently in Northeast Ohio are certainly atypical.
But how do you know if your child’s illness is something more severe?
“If your child has runny nose or stuffy nose, ongoing cough or fever, and certainly any developing respiratory distress … that is, nostrils flaring, sucking in with their muscles on top of their collarbone or between their ribs. Those are things that would indicate this is not just a common cold,” said Dr. Carl.
RSV is primarily spread through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes and direct contact with a contaminated surface.
If that sounds familiar, Dr. Carl says, yes, RSV and COVID-19 do have quite a bit of overlap in terms of how they spread and initial symptoms. In a typical season, Dr. Carl says nearly 60,000 kids under of the age of 5 are hospitalized nationwide with an RSV infection.
“We did not see the big groundswell in winter that we typically see, largely because most of the school-aged kids were social distancing, masking, and doing really vigorous handwashing because of COVID,” said Dr. Carl.
This summer, Dr. Carl says, keep those good hygiene practices we re-learned during the pandemic in place.
His other advice? Don’t forget, COVID-19 is still here.
“We only have less than a 50% immunization rate for COVID in the state of Ohio for those over 12,” he said. “So there’s still a lot of, particularly with the Delta variant being out there, there is certainly a reason to continue masking in large public gatherings because we don’t know who’s been immunized and who’s not.”