JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – At Children’s of Mississippi, there’s more than one virus infecting the state’s children, resulting in rising numbers of hospitalizations. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) has been rampant throughout the southeastern U.S. this summer in an off-season surge, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a health advisory last month.
RSV, which is a common virus that brings on cold-like symptoms, can cause serious illness in young children as well as in older adults. In babies younger than six months, RSV results in irritability, poor feeding, lethargy and apnea, sometimes with fever. Older infants and young children will experience cough, sneezing, fever and sometimes wheezing. When children are having difficulty breathing, medical care should be sought immediately.
As of Monday, August 2, COVID cases in the state’s only children’s hospital included 10 on inpatient hospital floors and two in pediatric intensive care. In contrast, doctors said 316 patients from the emergency department and inpatient floors had been diagnosed with RSV from July 1-30.
“We have had a huge number of RSV patients,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of pediatrics. “We’re also seeing a rise in pediatric COVID-19 patients, including some who have both COVID-19 and RSV.”
In cases where children have both viruses, the RSV often results in more serious symptoms.
Children with RSV and COVID-19 “seem to be sicker, requiring prolonged respiratory support,” said Dr. Jennifer Hong, associate chief medical officer for Children’s of Mississippi, “and some are also battling superimposed bacterial infections when admitted.”
The start of a new school year could bring a rise in viral infections, said Dr. April Palmer, professor and chief of pediatric infectious diseases.
“I’m concerned about schools not consistently recommending masking at the start of the school year, which we know works,” she said. “I have looked at many school district plans for the upcoming school year, and many are outdated, made before the last COVID wave. I would ask parents to push their local schools and school boards for universal masking.”
For younger children, RSV is a danger. “RSV is worse for kids younger than 2, who are unable to wear masks.”
To fight RSV and other viral infections, Palmer recommends good hand hygiene and keeping children home from school or daycare when ill. There is no vaccine against RSV, and treatment includes making sure children are getting enough oxygen and are not becoming dehydrated.