As the US begins to throw away masks and come out of lockdown, respiratory viruses also seem to be coming out at the same time.
“A number of our ER visits include patients with common respiratory viruses that we only see during winter months,” says Dr. Kurt Sobush, a pulmonologist from SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.
Cardinal Glennon is finding a 20% rise in cold and flu viruses, including RSV in children up to age 2.
According to the CDC, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms that can become more severe, especially in infants and older adults.
“It’s a virus that can escalate beyond just the common cold to something that would include a faster kind of breathing,” Dr. Sobush said.
RSV germs typically spread by coughing and sneezing. Doctors say the reason RSV cases are increasing may be related to less mask wearing and social distancing.
Last week, the CDC issued a health advisory to notify health care experts and caregivers about a rise in RSV activity across parts of the southern U.S.
The agency urged RSV testing for people showing signs of acute respiratory illness who test negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
RSV infections in the U.S. occur mainly during the fall and winter cold and flu season. In April 2020, RSV activity quickly decreased, likely due to coronavirus-prevention measures.
Compared with previous years, RSV activity stayed relatively low from May 2020 to March 2021, the CDC noted. However, since late March, the CDC has noticed an increase in reported RSV cases.
Dr. Sobush anticipates some parents will send their children to school with masks this fall regardless of whether or not their schools require them.
And just as it was before the pandemic, doctors say good hand washing for children remains important to slow or stop the spread of viruses.
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