LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) – An unusual increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in children worries Lexington pediatricians as the Delta variant fuels an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually manifests itself as a mild cold in adults.
dr. Elizabeth Hawse of Commonwealth Pediatrics said the disease causes the airways to swell. Adults will normally recover within a few weeks, but it can lead to more serious illness in children, especially children under 2 years of age.
“Little babies have very, very small airways. They get the same amount of swelling and it almost blocks their airway and then they can’t move air in and out. Then their oxygen levels drop,” said Dr. Hawse.
Symptoms for RSV include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing.
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health warning for a spike in RSV infections in the southern United States.
“It’s unusual because it’s unusual at this time of year,” said Dr. hawse. “This is something we normally see during what we would call flu season.”
dr. Hawse said her office has been incredibly busy since the beginning of the summer and she’s started noticing an increase in respiratory infections like RSV.
dr. Baptist Health Lexington’s Jai Gilliam said he treats an average of three to four children with RSV each week.
“Last year, at least in this clinic, we didn’t see a single flu or RSV,” said Dr. gilliam.
The pediatricians said more incidents of RSV statistically result in more children being hospitalized with it.
dr. Hawse said this is even more concerning at a time when a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state means fewer hospital beds are available.
“You have all the normal reasons why children are hospitalized for which we would need a bed and we will not have enough beds if children are keeping them busy with COVID-19 and RSV,” she explained.
RSV and COVID-19 both spread through respiratory droplets.
The health measures taken because of the pandemic have, according to Dr. Gilliam helped reduce RSV infections in 2020.
“So continuing to wear a mask indoors, washing hands before touching your face or your baby’s face, cleaning surfaces can all help,” said Dr. Gillam.