ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Health officials monitoring COVID-19 are now seeing another dangerous trend nationwide. There’s been a rise in cases of the respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, which can be deadly for young children. Doctors said RSV is very common during the winter months but disappeared during the pandemic with people masking up. Now, we are seeing it spread at an unusual time.
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Across the country, cases of RSV are soaring. Here in New Mexico, the numbers are also going up. “We are certainly seeing it here,” Dr. John Pederson at Presbyterian said. “We are seeing more off-season cases of RSV than we usually do.”
Pederson is the Children’s Program Medical Director at Presbyterian Hospital. Pederson said statewide, reported cases have been in the teens in the last few weeks. According to data from TriCore Labs, the number was 31 for the last week of July. Doctors said there is usually no RSV cases this time of year, but Pederson said it is nowhere near the numbers we see during the normal peak season. “Compared to what we would see during December, February and March where we see hundreds of cases per week, it is not a very large number,” Pederson said.
Over at UNM Hospital, Dr. Walter Dehority said they are monitoring cases nationwide to make sure we don’t see a huge spike here as some other states have experienced. Dr. Dehority said it is the more vulnerable populations that are most affected like infants, the elderly and those with severe medical conditions. While the average person usually has mild symptoms, others aren’t so lucky. “It is mostly those really young people or really old people,” Dehority said. “When they come into the hospital, they almost end up on a breathing machine and sometimes don’t make it home alive.”
Pederson said he expects even more spread with kids going back to school and worries about an even worse respiratory season with these mild peaks happening so early. “You put that on top of COVID-19, it could be a more severe respiratory viral season than what we usually see,” Pederson said.
Pederson said most kids get RSV by the age of two, but with everyone isolated recently, there is a large group of children who haven’t been exposed and don’t have immunity which leads to more cases. Pederson suggests kids going back to school change out of their school clothes and wash their hands when they get home.