Douglas County health officials are alerting residents, particularly parents, to an early spike in RSV, a respiratory ailment that usually strikes in the winter.
In the week ending Aug. 7, the Douglas County Health Department confirmed 126 cases of respiratory syncytial virus, with 87 of them in children 4 and under. The week before, the department recorded 121 cases, with 94 in kids 4 and under. Both were up from 60 cases in the week ending July 24.
During the last week of May, by comparison, just two cases were reported. One was in a person over 65, the other population hit hardest by the virus.
“The confirmed cases have blown up,” Health Department spokesman Phil Rooney said.
While RSV is treatable, and only some kids become ill enough to require hospitalization, the summer spike has helped fill pediatric beds in Douglas County to near capacity.
Health officials are concerned that a surge in COVID-19 among children would further strain local pediatric hospital capacity, said Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, an associate professor at Creighton University and chief of infectious diseases at Creighton and CHI Health. The combination is already stretching children’s hospitals in several Southern states.
Masking kids when they’re out in public would help prevent the spread of both RSV and COVID-19, Vivekanandan said.
Children under 12 aren’t yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID.
Masking and other steps taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus last year are thought to have contributed to low rates of RSV and influenza. As those measures have relaxed over the summer, RSV and other respiratory viruses have gained.
The symptoms of RSV resemble those of the common cold. But RSV can cause more serious infections, including pneumonia and an inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. That’s a particular concern among infants.
Treatment generally involves over-the-counter medicines to reduce fevers and pain. Drinking enough fluids to avoid dehydration is also important. Occasionally, people with RSV need to be hospitalized if they have trouble breathing or become dehydrated.