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Doctors say RSV is again sending people to the hospital

Hanna Webster, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Health & Fitness

Doctors near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have noticed a surge in patients coming into hospitals with RSV, a common virus with cold-like symptoms.

Respiratory syncytial virus is among a handful of respiratory viruses to tick up in the winter months. Last year saw what experts called a "tripledemic," as COVID-19, influenza and RSV surged together, leading to a rise in hospitalizations around the nation.

In Pennsylvania, reported RSV cases jumped nearly 28% when comparing the week ending Dec. 2 to the week prior. Cases in Allegheny County represent about 20% of state cases for the most currently available data.

Though in many people RSV presents (and clears) as would a cold, it's of particular concern for high-risk groups, including those over the age of 60 with chronic conditions, such as emphysema, and babies.

RSV causes between 6,000 and 10,000 deaths every year in those over the age of 65, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, compared to about 12,000 for the flu, according to Statista.

One recent CDC report found that, for people 60 and up who were hospitalized with RSV, COVID or flu between 2022 and 2023, those with RSV were more likely to require supplemental oxygen and to be admitted to intensive care units. They also typically had existing chronic medical conditions.

 

RSV can be dangerous in infants who are still developing their strength and their immune systems, and is the leading cause of hospitalization in babies aged 1 and younger.

"Our AHN outpatient pediatric offices have seen an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza, which tracks with what we're seeing nationally, and we anticipate these numbers will continue to rise this month as we gather and travel for the holidays," said Dr. Joe Aracri, chair of AHN Pediatric Institute and a pediatrician, in a news release.

UPMC Children's Hospital also said in an email statement that it had been seeing an increase in RSV and other respiratory illnesses over the past month, and that numbers were similar to pre-pandemic years.

Dr. Gena Walker, associate chief medical officer of St. Clair Health, said physicians there are beginning to see more adults presenting to emergency rooms and being hospitalized with RSV, adding many of them have chronic ailments, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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