Explainer: COVID, flu and RSV this U.S. winter: Why experts are worried

Oct 26 (Reuters) – U.S. doctors are warning that a surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases could mean an increase in COVID transmission and an earlier-than-usual flu season, raising the specter of a respiratory “triple disease.” Ill this winter.

In particular, RSV infections among young children have reportedly filled some US hospitals to capacity.

“We’re already seeing more than one patient test positive,” Dr. Ira Wardono, a pediatrician at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, Calif., said in a statement.

Who is at risk?

Infants are at greater risk from RSV because they often cannot cough up secretions caused by the virus and may require airway suction or intravenous fluids. Some may require supplemental oxygen. Older children and most adults usually experience mild, cold-like symptoms.

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On average, RSV leads to 58,000 hospitalizations among children younger than age 5 and 177,000 hospitalizations among adults age 65 and older, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although RSV deaths are rare in children in the United States, 14,000 adults die from the virus annually, and older or immunocompromised people are at higher risk, according to the CDC.

What can prevent RSV?

RSV can be prevented the same way one would prevent any virus: staying away from sick people, ensuring the best possible ventilation when you’re indoors, wearing a high-quality mask and keeping your hands as clean as possible, Kroll.com’s chief medical advisor and epidemic prevention And said Dr. Jay Verma, director of the Weill Cornell Center for Responses.

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High-risk infants can receive preventive treatment with monthly doses of Synagis (palivizumab) from Swedish drugmaker Orphan Biovitrum. AstraZeneca Plc and Sanofi SA are hoping for US and European approval of Beyfortus (nirsevimab) to prevent RSV infections in newborns and infants.

There is no vaccine against RSV, but Pfizer Inc is developing RSVpreF for adults. Meanwhile, “it’s important for everyone to stay up-to-date on their COVID and flu shots,” Verma said.

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What is the cause of this wave?

Part of the increase in RSV cases is due to the easing of COVID-19 precautions, such as masks and social distancing, which reduced rates of both RSV and the flu during the pandemic, Verma said.

RSV rates were unusually low in the fall/winter of 2020-2021, but have risen dramatically since spring 2021 and have peaked since late August.

The CDC says it’s still impossible to predict when the previous seasonal patterns will return.

Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Edited by Michele Gershberg and Richard Pullin

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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