As the fall season ushers in and kids are back to school, we find ourselves once again facing the challenge of a rise in respiratory viruses. A new alert out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of rising RSV cases in certain parts of the country.
RSV is not a new adversary. It's a common virus that for most people causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While RSV typically peaks during the winter months, the pattern has shifted in recent years, with the virus showing up earlier in the year.
The Southeast is now seeing a rise in RSV cases signalizing RSV season has begun, and the rest of the country can expect to see the same over the next couple of months.
So, what should we know heading into the fall?
Knowledge is our first line of defense. Being informed about the rising RSV cases allows individuals and health care professionals to detect infections early and educate at-risk populations about necessary precautions.
1. Know the signs of RSV
Common symptoms of RSV include coughing, sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and even a mild fever. While these symptoms may resemble a common cold, RSV can become severe, particularly in vulnerable populations like young infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
People should seek medical attention if they notice signs of rapid or labored breathing, wheezing, high fever, bluish skin or lips, extreme fatigue, or signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination or dry mouth.
People should seek medical attention if they notice signs of rapid or labored breathing, wheezing, high fever, bluish skin or lips, extreme fatigue, or signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination or dry mouth. Early intervention is crucial to manage the virus effectively and prevent complications, so contacting a doctor promptly is advised when these concerning symptoms arise.
2. Protecting the vulnerable
The fall and winter months tend to be times for friends and family to gather for holidays and with them go the respiratory viruses. To protect high-risk individuals, even if you have mild cold symptoms, avoid close contact with those who may not tolerate RSV as well.
Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing in public. Staying home when sick is the easiest way to avoid infecting other people.
3. Prevention methods
Maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, staying hydrated, and getting regular exercise can also bolster the immune system. Adequate sleep is also crucial for a strong defense against illnesses, so aim for 7-9 hours of quality rest each night.
Wash hands frequently and consider using a humidifier in your home to keep the air moist, as dry air can make it easier for viruses to thrive. By following these simple steps, you can increase your chances of staying healthy during the cold season while also protecting those around you.
Also on the prevention front, the first RSV-vaccine gained FDA approval in May of this year for adults 60 years and older. As such, the CDC recommends this fall eligible adults add the RSV vaccine to their annual vaccine schedule.
Thic Electron Micrograph Reveals The Morphologic Traits Of The Respiratory Syncytial Virus Rsv. The Virion Is Variable In Shape, And Size Average Diameter Of Between 120 300Nm. Rsv Is The Most Common Cause Of Bronchiolitis And Pneumonia Among Infants And Children Under 1 Year Of Age. ((Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images))
While there are no vaccines approved for children yet, there are monoclonal antibodies that can be given to infants less than 8 months entering RSV season to add a layer of defense to help fight RSV infections and protect them from getting very sick.
Currently, supportive care is the primary approach for infections. This includes maintaining proper hydration, using humidifiers to ease respiratory symptoms, and providing supplemental oxygen if necessary. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required, particularly for infants and individuals with underlying health conditions where antiviral medication, airway dilators and other medications may be used to maintain adequate respiration.
Being informed is not just a passive act; it is an essential tool in our arsenal against rising RSV cases this fall. It empowers us to take proactive measures, protect the most vulnerable among us, and contribute to the collective effort to curb the spread of the virus. In the battle against infectious diseases, knowledge truly is power, and it's up to each of us to use it wisely for the sake of our communities and loved ones.
Nicole Saphier, M.D., is a board certified radiologist with advanced fellowship training in breast imaging, Fox News medical contributor and bestselling author of "Make America Healthy Again" and "Panic Attack: Playing Politics with Science in the Fight Against COVID-19." Follow her on Twitter @NBSaphierMD and Instagram @nicolesaphier_md.