U.S. hospitals seeing sudden rise in RSV cases

Pediatricians across the United States are reporting a rise in the number of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, cases.

RSV season regularly arrives during the end of autumn and peaks sometime in January. The spike in cases is expected, but some hospitals are seeing more than the usual number of infections.

"Over the past two weeks it's really elevated, and in the last 24 hours we've probably seen 10 new patients," Dr. Mike Lewis, a pediatrician at Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, said, reports. "It happens every year, but this year we're seeing it earlier and the symptoms are more severe."

Other hospitals in the Kansas City metro area are seeing a similar situation develop. KU hospital is seeing so many young RSV patients that it has moved some children with other conditions to its burn unit, according to

RSV is highly contagious and can be spread through the air in water droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The infected can generally spread the illness from three to eight days. During that time symptoms of RSV may mirror the common cold and include a runny nose, nasal congestion and fever, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Parents should not be overly alarmed because only a small percentage of youngsters will develop the severe disease and require hospitalization," Baystate Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Matthew Sadof said, reports.

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of one in the United States. There is no vaccine to prevent RSV, but the drug palivizumab can prevent more severe cases.

"The best advice as we enter the RSV season is to talk with your child's pediatrician to identify if he or she is at high risk and if palivizumab is an option to prevent possible severe illness," Sadof said, reports.