Hospitals around the country and even right here in Rochester are reporting an unseasonable outbreak of RSV cases.

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms in adults. Unfortunately, RSV can cause serious complications in infants and older adults. In infants, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs). Complications of RSV can be life-threatening and can cause infants to struggle or even stop breathing.

Hospitals around the U.S are observing never before seen numbers of RSV cases. RSV typically occurs in the late fall, winter, and early spring. Infection numbers are surging months earlier than usual. Around 2,000 confirmed cases were recorded across the U.S. during the week of July 10, 2021, compared to less than a dozen during the week of July 25, 2020. The CDC says the actual number of infections is likely higher, since clinicians may not test sick children for RSV outside its usual season.

Golisano Children’s Hospital right here in Rochester recently reported they were at full capacity. Golisano Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Chair and Physician in Chief Dr. Patrick Brophy said “In fall, normally we see episodes of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza virus, and a few other respiratory viruses. They peak usually during fall, but we’re seeing that peak early this year in August already.”

The unseasonable surge is most likely due to the recent easing of mask mandates and social distancing. In 2020, RSV cases hit record lows due to the precautions COVID-19 had put in place like masking, social distancing, and staying home.

With restrictions decreasing, healthcare workers are seeing an increase in both COVID-19 and RSV in children. Pediatric patients in hospitals have been coming in and getting diagnosed with both RSV and COVID-19 at the same time. At Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, 25 of 45 hospitalized pediatric patients were diagnosed with RSV as well as COVID-19.

The best way to protect kids from RSV is to stay away from small children if you feel like you have a cold, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent RSV. Rochester Clinical Research is conducting numerous studies on vaccines to potentially prevent RSV. If you or someone you know is over the age of 60 and would be interested, click here to see if you qualify.

Together, we can create a future free of RSV.