RSV Fast Facts, Tips and Important Information

Area health care providers are seeing a rise in the incidence of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, especially among the very young and very old. RSV is familiar as a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. But it can be critical in a small number of cases, according to James Partin, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Hill Country Memorial.

“The overwhelming majority of these children have only a very mild 4 to 10 days of symptoms and, and basically they get over it without a significant issue,” Partin said. “The ones that get in trouble are the ones that begin having difficulty breathing. So if your child has cold-like symptoms, watch them. If they’re doing fine, there is no need to worry. But if they have a difficulty with not eating, not drinking, or difficulty breathing, that’s the time seek medical treatment.”

The condition can turn critical in infants and those under age 2 as they have smaller airways that can become inflamed and filled with fluid. They also tend to become dehydrated more quickly than adults.

Similar awareness is needed for the very elderly or those that are immuno-compromised.

Complicating the diagnosis and treatment of RSV is that this area, like most of the country, is facing a possible “tri-demic.” The symptoms of three illnesses–RSV, influenza, and COVID-19–tend to overlap and present in some of the same ways.

“The incidence of influenza is now higher already this year than in any of the last five years,” Partin said. “The symptoms are the same from all three. However, treatment for each condition differs, so you need to know which of those three viruses are affecting your child.”

The medical community attributes the rise in RSV to the isolation of children the past two years.

“In 2020 and 2021, many were basically isolated at home,” Partin said. “Now we’ve got a whole bunch of kids that were not exposed to a virus, suddenly getting significant exposure to the virus and becoming infected.”

The tri-demic is also putting stress on pediatric healthcare systems across the country, said Partin, who describes it as “near the breaking point.”

“Hill Country Memorial is working to stay ahead of the need,” he said. “We are continuing to meet with staff, making sure we have the equipment and we have all the supplies. We are retraining our nurses and our doctors as well to make sure they know what to do in a situation where we cannot transfer our patient to a pediatric care facility.”

To prevent or minimize exposure to RSV, Partin recommends the familiar practices of frequent hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks, and keeping any child at home who shows signs of illness.