CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, better known as RSV, have been steadily climbing at Driscoll Children's Hospital since August.
Dr. Jaime Fergie, Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Driscoll Children's Hospitals, said RSV is a virus that causes respiratory infections.
It's especially active from late autumn into early spring.
The RSV virus is easily spread from person to person and can be fatal.
Those most at risk includes children, babies under 1 year of age, people over 60 and adults with chronic medical condition.
An RSV infection initially will start as a common cold. It usually begins in the upper respiratory system which includes the nose, sinuses and throat.
If it gets into your lungs you'll begin having trouble breathing.You'll breathe faster and develop a cough.
In infants they may have trouble feeding and may need to go to the hospital.
Dr. Jaime Fergie says, "It is very significant, we are seeing many children in our urgent care centers, in our emergency room, and unfortunately many of them have to be hospitalized and about 20% of them end up in intensive care units. Some of them even need mechanical ventilation so right now we are at the peak of season. We are seeing a lot of cases, a lot of children, very severe infections."
Every year up to 300 children end up at Driscoll Children's Hospital.
Nationwide, RSV can affect hundreds of thousands of children.
Dr. Fergie said that every child has been infected by the RSV virus by the age of two, although not all will develop severe symptoms.
It can be just as dangerous in adults. An adult with an RSV infection can develop severe respiratory distress, especially the elderly.
During the pandemic, RSV cases dropped because of the lockdown.
People were staying at home and so avoided contact with others who might have been infected with RSV.
Now we're seeing cases going back up and Dr. Fergie said the number of cases indicate this will be severe RSV season.
There is an RSV vaccine available for those considered at risk and Dr. Fergie urges those people to get the vaccine.
"Do not hesitate," he said. "Right now we are seeing a lot of people with RSV. We are in the middle of the season. We're peaking into a number of cases so go right ahead, do not wait. Take advantage of the fact that for the first time ever we have a vaccine to give to people to prevent this illness."
Dr. Fergie said women who are pregnant should get the RSV vaccine, which will prevent the virus from spreading to their baby.
Adults over 60 are also urged to get vaccinated.
There is another medication called a monoclonal antibody that is given to babies after birth. It's recommended for babies who's mother did not get vaccinated.
Dr. Fergie said those babies should go to their doctor to get the monoclonal antibody
There is a shortage of this medication so talk to your doctor first to find out if they have it.
If they do, get it for your baby. RSV cases in babies can be severe.
The RSV vaccine for those over 60 and for pregnant women is available at area pharmacies and doctors offices.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 14% of older adults have gotten the new RSV vaccine.
RSV cases typically begin to wind down by March or April.