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Cases of RSV rising across the nation during an unusual time of year, doctors say

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:23 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, have been high over the past few weeks.

Last week, the CDC reported over 1,600 cases nationwide. During this time last year, the center had reported just 11.

“RSV season in a normal year usually starts in the mid-fall, around November and really hits its peak in December, January, February,” said Dr. Sean McTigue, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with UK Healthcare.

But, this is no normal year.

“What we’re seeing is a fairly mild RSV season in a typical year if this was the typical time, but certainly something very unusual for summertime,” Dr. McTigue said.

Dr. McTigue is seeing a trend that has likely been catalyzed by loosening COVID-19 restrictions.

“I think it certainly has something to do with the fact that now that kids are back in contact with each other, they’re back in congregate settings, not wearing masks as much,” Dr. McTigue said.

For most children, it amounts to nothing more than a common cold. But for younger children and infants, it can cause problems.

“What happens to a subset of people who get RSV, instead of just getting upper respiratory infection, they also get some lower respiratory infection which we call bronchiolitis,” Dr. McTigue said.

According to Dr. McTigue, the continuation of this trend is dependent on people’s individual behaviors.

“What really remains to be seen is, I don’t know if this is going to be a late RSV season from this past winter or is this an early start for this coming fall,” Dr. McTigue said.

Dr. McTigue says that parents shouldn’t panic if their child receives this diagnosis, but those with infants or younger children should watch out for symptoms like fast or labored breathing, or difficulty drinking fluids.

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