By Nigel Turner
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
COVID-19 is still circulating in Pierce County. Flu season has begun. And now, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report an increase in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV).
According to healthcare providers at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, the rise in RSV cases is also contributing to an increase in emergency room visits. The hospital created a tool to help you decide if you need to take your child to the ER, urgent care, or treat at home.
Using the hospital only when you truly need it helps keep this important resource available for emergencies, surgeries, and for those most vulnerable to severe illness.
What is RSV?
RSV infects nearly all children by the time they turn 2. It usually causes only mild cold-like symptoms in older children and adults but can cause severe illness in infants, especially premature babies, those with certain heart or lung diseases, and older adults.
It is the most common cause of severe lung infections in children younger than 1 in the U.S. About 58,000 U.S. children under 5 are hospitalized with RSV each year. CDC says 1-2% of children under 6 months who are infected with RSV may need to be hospitalized.
RSV can spread when:
Someone who has RSV coughs or sneezes.
You get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
You have direct contact with the virus, like kissing the face of a child with RSV.
You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands.
People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days and may become contagious a day or 2 before they start showing signs of illness.
Simple steps to protect your family.
If your baby is at high risk for RSV infection, you can ask your healthcare provider if your baby is eligible for an injection that could prevent it.
You can also help limit the spread of RSV just like you’ve done for COVID-19 the past few years and the flu before that. Especially if you are around young children or older adults, take these steps:
Stay home if you’re sick.
Cover your coughs and sneezes.
Wash your hands often.
Consider wearing a mask around those most at risk.
Limit the time you spend in childcare centers or other potentially contagious settings.
Boost your protection.
Everyone should take precautions this respiratory season. But some groups are especially at risk for severe illness:
Children under 5 years (especially under 2 years).
Adults 65 years or older.
Those who are pregnant.
Anyone living with a health condition like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Now is also the time to get your updated COVID-19 booster. Bivalent Pfizer and Moderna boosters protect against both the original COVID-19 strain and omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5. They provide the best protection against severe illness.
Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get an updated booster 2 months after your last booster dose or primary series of vaccines.
We also have Novavax boosters for people 18 and older who can’t or don’t want to get an mRNA vaccine.
Find your dose today at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture.
Help us stay safe this fall.
We’ll keep you posted on ways you and your family can stay safe this fall. Sign up for blog updates and other notifications and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get our latest reliable information about respiratory infections and other important public health topics.
Nigel Turner leads the work at TPCHD to help keep your family safe from communicable diseases.