VIRGINIA (DC News Now) — Doctors say cases of RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, are rising in Virginia, though newly approved preventative shots are scarce.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency room visits due to RSV and other respiratory illnesses are on the rise across the country.
“The virus is everywhere,” said Dr. Frank Giancola of Pediatricare of Northern Virginia. “Once it starts to spread just like a cold, it’s very difficult to cease spread.”
In August, the Food and Drug Administration approved a Pfizer vaccine to prevent RSV, intended for use in pregnant women and older adults. It also approved a monoclonal antibody shot, Nirsevimab, or commercial name Beyformin, for children under a year old.
While the vaccine is readily available, there is a shortage of the monoclonal antibody shot. Giancola said that the CDC is now recommending that only at-risk babies receive the shot.
“The problem with the pediatric one, the demand went through the roof for it and they couldn’t produce it fast enough,” Giancola said. “There’s a shortage.”
He said at-risk patients are those who are younger than 9 months old, were born premature or have lung or immunological disease.
While RSV is the leading cause for hospitalization in babies, Giancola said it is not normally a severe illness for older children.
“If your child is overall healthy and they’re over the age of one, they’re probably just going to get a really nasty cold from it,” he said. “Everybody panics when they hear RSV.”
According to Giancola, parents should treat sick kids by encouraging hydration and rest, and by using humidifiers to alleviate mucous build up in the lungs.
Signs that an illness might require a doctor’s office or emergency room visit include rapid breathing for several minutes, breathing causing the chest to “suck in” under the ribcage, extreme wheezing or a change in skin color.
“You don’t usually do those things with an ordinary cold,” he said. “These things all lend to, ‘Does this child need further assistance in evaluation and possibly treatment?'”