JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – With demand for a new respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) monoclonal antibody outpacing supply, experts at Children’s of Mississippi recommend families take steps to reduce the risk of RSV infection.
“RSV is on the rise. Younger kids, especially babies younger than 2 months old, are experiencing more severe disease and have the highest rates of admission to the pediatric intensive care unit,” said Dr. Laura Wright-Sexton, assistant professor in pediatric critical care.
On Monday, October 30, 2023, 12 patients were hospitalized with RSV at the state’s only children’s hospital.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious for babies and older adults. The virus leads to about 80,000 hospitalizations with as many as 300 deaths among children younger than five each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
RSV is spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes and touching surfaces with the virus on it, such as a doorknob, and then touching your face before washing your hands. People with RSV are contagious for about three to eight days and can spread the virus a day or two before symptoms begin.
Even among children with no pre-existing conditions, RSV can be dangerous. Most babies who were critically ill with RSV in 2022 were full term and previously healthy, UMMC researchers reported in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Current CDC statistics show that RSV is on the rise throughout the southeastern U.S. and is expected to increase in other parts of the country through the end of the year and into 2024.
Because of the Beyfortus shortage, the CDC recommends that immunization be prioritized for babies younger than six months who have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for severe RSV.
The CDC recommends that doctors stop giving Beyfortus to children ages eight months to 19 months since they are eligible to take Synagis, an older protective therapy. Unlike Beyfortus, which protects children for six months, Synagis is taken monthly.
Though Beyfortus is in short supply, UMMC experts say there are other options for lowering the RSV risk. They include:
- If pregnant, talking with your health care provider about Abrysvo, the first vaccine approved for use in pregnancy to prevent lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in infants from birth to six months. Abrysvo has also been approved for prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in adults 60 and older.
- Preventing RSV by covering coughs and sneezes with the inside of your arm and not your hands.
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Staying home when sick.