RSV: Professor discusses ‘unusual’ summer outbreaks
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Youngsters were largely spared from early variants of coronavirus but the raging Delta variant has proved much more transmissible as it quickly spread throughout the world. But now health care workers on the front lines have warned of rising fears with a surge in children now diagnosed with a combination of coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus. Paediatric hospitals throughout the USA are reporting unseasonably early outbreaks of RSV, which largely begins as a mild illness with cold-like symptoms but can develop into pneumonia and bronchiolitis in very young children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national public health agency of the US, has warned the respiratory virus can be life-threatening in infants and young adults.
On Thursday, 25 of 45 hospitalised paediatric patients at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston were diagnosed with RSV as well as Covid.
Officials warned the hospitalisation rate was “much higher than for either virus alone”.
Currently, there is very little detail on the impact of contracting both RSV and Covid, as well as whether the combination of both can make a person more ill.
Baby health warning: There have been rising cases of RSV among young children (Image: GETTY)
Baby health warning: RSV can be life-threatening in infants (Image: GETTY)
But there are growing fears among health officials it could put young patients — who are not eligible for the vaccine — at greater risk.
The CDC states infections from RSV normally occur in the late fall, winter or early part of spring.
However, Dr Pia Pannaraj, an infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, told the NPR website in the US: “But last year, during all of the COVID-19 outbreaks and all of our social restriction measures, we did not see RSV the way we normally see it.”
He warned that as many US states slowly begin to risk strict restrictions from the Covid pandemic, doctors are now beginning to see a surge in RSV cases.
Baby health warning: Youngsters were largely spared from early variants of Covid (Image: GETTY)
In Texas, which is the second-largest US state by population with some 29 million people, the spike in cases from the virus began to materialise at the end of June.
Dr Pannaraj warned: “This is definitely earlier than normal.”
The medical expert explained the absence of widespread RSV last season means “babies up until about a year and a half or two years of life are at risk”.
She also urged parents of young children and doctors to be extra vigilant of any RSV symptoms, including coughing, lack of appetite, fatigue and excessive sleeping.
The doctor explained these are similar to symptoms experienced by people with Covid, adding: “So parents and physicians need to look out for both of those infections.”
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There has been more than 207 million confirmed Covid cases throughout the world (Image: EXPRESS)
Dr Pannaraj says the surge in RSV infections was first spotted in southern US states, a large number of which are facing an intense battle with Covid, but there are now growing fears of a rapid spread to other states, including Los Angeles.
She said: “It’s on its way up,” adding some states have already reported cases as high as would normally be seen during the winter.
However, the medical expert said areas of the country that are reintroducing indoor mask-wearing rules and social distancing will probably see a fall in RSV infections.
Dr Pannaraj said Southern California has not seen many cases where a person has both RSV and Covid.
She warned: “But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.
“In fact, we probably have to assume that it will happen.”