The United States is amid a surge of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases among infants.1 RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants under 12 months, according to a study of pediatric hospitalizations between 1997 and 2000.2 Severe RSV disease is unpredictable. Any infant (born at term and healthy, or premature with underlying conditions) can be hospitalized in their first season.3* It’s time for healthcare professionals to rethink RSV and speak out for ALL infants against the impact of severe RSV.
*Surveillance data between October 2014 and April 2015. Among 1,176 RSV-hospitalized infants aged 12 months or under, 851 had no reported underlying condition (prematurity was classified as an underlying condition in the study).
RSV is a highly contagious virus that can lead to serious respiratory illness for infants. About 72% of infants hospitalized for RSV were born at term with no underlying conditions.3* While RSV causes cold-like symptoms, it often progresses to LRTI (bronchiolitis and pneumonia) in infants making it the leading cause of infant hospitalization.2**
Once a parent has lived through their baby being diagnosed with or hospitalized for RSV, the memories stay with them. They’ll never forget feeling helpless as their child may have struggled to eat, sleep or breathe.
Dr. Anna Zimmermann, a pediatrician and a mom, knows this reality all too well. Dr. Zimmermann vividly recalls the day she learned that her 14-month-old daughter had been exposed to RSV at daycare. We sat down with her to ask her about that experience.
*Surveillance data between October 2014 and April 2015. Among 1,176 RSV-hospitalized infants aged 12 months or under, 851 had no reported underlying condition (prematurity was classified as an underlying condition in the study)
** According to a study of pediatric hospitalizations between 1997 and 2000.
A mom, who is also a pediatrician, recounts her child’s RSV story
Q: Tell us about your family’s encounter with RSV.
As a pediatrician, I understood that my daughter could likely get RSV from day-to-day exposure, but wrongly assumed she would have a mild case since she was previously healthy and now 14 months old. Since RSV infects many infants — nearly all will have been infected with RSV by the age of two.4 However one evening when my daughter was more tired, lethargic, and struggling to breathe, I knew it was time to take her to the hospital.
As my husband and I walked into the emergency room — in the hospital where I worked as a pediatrician and neonatologist — we were overwhelmed by fear and uncertainty. However, I also recognized that my daughter was in a safe space, in the care of colleagues whom I trusted.
After three days in the hospital, and three more days on oxygen at home, she thankfully recovered. The experience taught me that we as healthcare professionals need to rethink RSV to help parents understand the signs, symptoms and risk for their child.
Q: There are limited options to help address RSV. Prevention is restricted and available for a very limited number of infants, and treatment is largely limited to supportive care.5 With that in mind, how can healthcare professionals help support caregivers and families in protecting their infant from RSV?
The current RSV surge reinforces the critical need for ongoing research and data generation to inform new options to address RSV in ALL infants.1 Supportive care consists of supplemental oxygen, respiratory support and IV hydration.6
Until we have a preventative option for ALL infants, it’s time for healthcare professionals to rethink RSV and speak out for ALL infants against the impact of severe RSV by sharing the following with caregivers and families:
- How their infant’s first RSV season (typically November to March) may pose a threat to the health of their child7
- How infants can catch RSV from surfaces and close contact with infected people8
- How RSV often spreads to infants via contact with infected older siblings8
- Early signs of mild infection, and when to urgently seek medical attention
The steps that Dr. Zimmermann and other healthcare professionals take today can help raise awareness about RSV to help protect ALL infants. We also need to rethink RSV to help protect ALL infants from this highly contagious virus.
To learn more, visit RethinkRSV.com.
1RSV National Trends – NREVSS | CDC. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/surveillance/nrevss/rsv/natl-trend.html. Published 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021.
2Leader S, Kohlhase K. Recent trends in severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among US infants, 1997 to 2000. J Pediatr. 2003;143(5):127-132. doi:10.1067/s0022-3476(03)00510-9
3Arriola C, Kim L. Estimated Burden of Community-Onset Respiratory Syncytial Virus-Associated Hospitalizations Among Children Aged <2 Years in the United States 2014-15. J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc 9, 587–595 (2020).
4RSV in Infants and Young Children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/high-risk/infants-young-children.html. Published 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021.
5Simoes E, DeVincenzo J, Boeckh M et al. Challenges and Opportunities in Developing Respiratory Syncytial Virus Therapeutics. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2015;211(suppl 1):S1-S20. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiu828
6Domachowske J, Halczyn J, Bonville CA. Preventing Pediatric Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection. Pediatr Ann. 2018;47(9):e371-e376. doi:10.3928/19382359-20180816-01
7Learn about Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html. Published 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021.
8RSV Transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/transmission.html. Published 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021.