RSV spikes in Utah kids, could signal bad cold season

Oct 10, 2022, 10:20 PM | Updated: Oct 11, 2022, 5:36 am

SALT LAKE CITY — RSV is already starting to make the rounds in Utah kids this season, with cases and hospitalizations on the rise, according to Primary Children’s Hospital. One doctor said RSV “wants to wreak some havoc on our community.”

The Intermountain Healthcare GermWatch shows RSV as the biggest sickness threat in the community right now, at “moderate” activity. An area-by-area map in Utah shows some communities at “high” activity.

“We are kind of just waiting for it to take off, and it’s taking off a little sooner than we had hoped it would this year,” said Dr. Per Gesteland, a pediatric hospitalist with University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “Usually it’s late November, early December that we’re starting to see our RSV season start.”

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, infects the lungs and breathing passages. While it can present as a common cold in adults, Gesteland explained that it can be dangerous for babies, immunocompromised people and the elderly.

Symptoms include congestion, sneezing, cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. Gesteland said for babies, RSV can come on sneakily, and at first, a baby may be fussy, irritable, and feeding poorly. RSV can get down into the lower respiratory tract, he said, making it harder for the baby to breathe. They may breathe fast with nasal flaring.

In some cases, the oxygen can dip so low that the lips and tongue will turn blue. Blue lips with fast breathing should prompt parents to take their baby or child in to be checked out.

Gesteland described how the pandemic has changed the normal epidemiology of viruses, causing an aberration in sicknesses like RSV.

“Wearing masks, staying apart basically just made all those viruses disappear for a couple of years,” he said. “As a result, however, we built up a pretty large population of children that were going to be susceptible to these viral infections, and now, we’re seeing them come back.”

RSV came on early last year as well, and Gesteland said this year, we’re getting into a trend that looks like it’ll continue to march up at this point.

Gesteland recommended that if you have a baby or newborn, limit who visits and make sure that person washes their hands, wears a mask, and isn’t exhibiting symptoms of illness. Make sure school-aged kids are washing their hands frequently or using alcohol hand sanitizer to prevent bringing home sicknesses from school.

There is no vaccine or medicine available to prevent or treat RSV.

He said in the next week or so, they will be rolling out monoclonal antibody therapy for RSV to give to high-risk babies.

If your child or baby starts showing symptoms, Gesteland said it’s important to keep the child’s nasal passages clear, make sure they’re eating, and avoid dehydration with plenty of liquids like Pedialyte.

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RSV spikes in Utah kids, could signal bad cold season