BOONE — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory June 10 to notify clinicians and caregivers about increased interseasonal respiratory syncytial virus activity across the Southern United States, including Northing Carolina.
According to the CDC, RSV is an RNA virus of the genus Orthopneumovirus, family Pneumoviridae, primarily spread via respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, and through direct contact with a contaminated surface.
RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age in the United States. Infants, young children and older adults with chronic medical conditions are at risk of severe disease from RSV infection, according to the CDC. Each year in the United States, RSV leads to on average approximately 58,000 hospitalizations with 100-500 deaths among children younger than 5 years old and 177,000 hospitalizations with 14,000 deaths among adults aged 65 years or older.
RSV is not a required reportable disease in North Carolina, according to AppHealthCare, so the organization doesn’t have data related to RSV in Watauga County. The organization did say it was paying close attention to the health advisory and recommendations from the CDC.
“It’s important that we recognize the fact that we have more people socializing now and we know that this is a respiratory virus that spreads when we sneeze or cough, which is easily spread as we spend more time together,” AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene said. We encourage the community to practice prevention measures like staying home if you’re sick and washing your hands often to help prevent viruses like RSV from spreading to others like infants, young children and older adults who could become very sick if infected.”
Greene also said that community members who are at higher risk — including being an older adult or someone with a compromised immune system — should reach out to their health care provider for guidance since many respiratory viruses like RSV have similar symptoms to other illnesses like the flu and COVID-19.
In the United States, RSV infections occur primarily during the fall and winter cold and flu season. In April 2020, RSV activity decreased rapidly, likely due to the adoption of public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Compared with previous years, RSV activity remained relatively low from May 2020 to March 2021, according to the CDC.
However, since late March 2021, the CDC has observed an increase in RSV detections reported to the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS), a nationwide passive, laboratory-based surveillance network, according to the CDC.
The full RSV health advisory can be found at emergency.cdc.gov/han/2021/han00443.asp.