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Wisconsin seeing off-season spike in RSV cases

A baby is hospitalized with RSV
A baby is hospitalized with RSV(wsaw)
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 6:39 AM CDT
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(WSAW) - Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is seeing a spike in cases this summer. As of the week ending July 31, there was an 8.8% infection rate across the state of Wisconsin, according to data compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Health. During the same time period last year, the positivity rate was less than 1%.

The disease normally starts to rise in frequency in the fall, but because there wasn’t as much chance to catch it in 2020 with COVID-19 lockdowns and masking, people’s immune systems aren’t prepared for it.

For most people, it just looks like the flu. Symptoms include runny nose, coughing and sneezing, fever, wheezing and loss of appetite. But for very young children it can be much more serious.

“The group I want to draw attention to though, are pre-term babies. We know that pre-term babies are uniquely vulnerable and have a two to five times increased risk to being hospitalized compared to term babies. Their lungs are immature, their immune systems are not as strong,” said pediatrician Dr. Michael Forbes of Akron Children’s Hospital. Forbes refers to CDC recommendations and says you should have your doctor test for the disease if you have a baby or toddler with these kinds of symptoms.

He also recommends enhanced hygiene practices, such as washing hands often and using antibacterial wipes. The virus can live on flat surfaces and even clothing, so it is important to keep everything clean.

With people getting back to normal life, it is easy to bring it into the home from outside, so Dr. Forbes says sick people should also be isolated from the rest of a household, especially babies.

“If they have school-age siblings, those kids will go to school and bring it home to the infant or toddler. And if they’re in daycare the same kind of thing can happen, and so those are two real risk factors that can happen for the infant or toddler that parents need to be aware of as we go back to school and schools re-open,” he said.

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