Hospitals across the United States are experiencing a rise in respiratory syncytial virus cases in children much earlier than the typical peak season. RSV can be deadly, especially in children under 5 and adults 65 and older. File Photo by stux/Pixabay.

Hospitals across the United States are experiencing a rise in respiratory syncytial virus cases in children much earlier than the typical peak season. RSV can be deadly, especially in children under 5 and adults 65 and older. File Photo by stux/Pixabay.

Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Pediatric hospitals across the United States are experiencing a flood of children with respiratory infections, leading doctors to brace for a difficult flu season.

The rash of children infected with respiratory syncytial virus has been impacting hospitals in 33 states. The virus typically has its peak season between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase in cases coming much earlier than usual is causing concern among healthcare professionals.

"Because of the numbers that we're seeing at the wrong time, they are coming into the hospital in large numbers, so that is a little difficult for us," Dr. Juan Salazar, physician-in-chief with Connecticut Children's Medical Center, told ABC 7 in Hartford this week.

Hospitals in Connecticut have reported being at capacity, treating children in hallways and considering setting up tents outside facilities, similar to what was done at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RSV is the leading cause of pediatric bronchitis and pneumonia and is considered a dangerous infection, particularly in infants and older adults. Its symptoms are often similar to the common cold, but in more serious cases parents should watch for trouble breathing, flaring nostrils and a sinking and protruding abdomen while inhaling and exhaling. Other symptoms include a runny nose, decreased appetite, wheezing, coughing and fever.

The virus is spread through close contact, including contact with surfaces where it is present. Covering your coughs and sneezes, washing hands, frequently avoiding close contact and cleaning frequently touched surfaces can reduce the spread of RSV.

There are more than 2.1 million outpatient visits for RSV in children younger than 5 years old annually. About 58,000 children are hospitalized each year and between 100 and 300 die.

About 177,000 adults 65 years old and older are hospitalized with RSV each year, resulting in an estimated 14,000 deaths.

In August, Pfizer announced its potential RSV vaccine is 85% effective in its Phase 3 trial. The vaccine, which is meant to prevent RSV in older adults, had a trial with 60 participants.

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