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Child virus spiking in Central Texas

Local doctors say RSV cases are soaring
Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - There’s a significant uptick in a contagious pediatric virus in Central Texas that medicine “doesn’t really help,” according to local doctors, and the pandemic may be the cause.

“This is bizarre, this is really, really strange,” said Dr. John Myers, a family doctor with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Hillcrest in Waco. “This is something we have not seen before.”

Myers says his clinic has been busy all summer, but there’s one virus in particular that’s standing out in kids--and it’s not COVID-19.

“RSV right now is the number one thing that we’re seeing,” said Myers.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) typically presents itself in the fall, peaks in the winter and goes away by late Spring.

However, it’s started peaking in Central Texas this summer, he says.

“It’s usually completely gone by the late spring,” said Myers. “We know that we don’t develop immunity to RSV forever, but we do develop temporal immunity for a while, so most kids, by the time the summer rolls around, have already had it for that year, and so they’re usually not going to get it again.”

So why is this year different?

Myers believes it’s probably pandemic-related.

“Probably the most likely reason is the COVID pandemic,” said Myers. “Now that COVID cases have decreased, we’re going back on a lot of those things we were doing to be careful, and it’s just opening up the infectivity of other viruses.”

Depending on how you look at it, the surge in RSV cases is either early (because they usually peak in winter) or late (because the pandemic held them off).

“For the winter and last fall, times where RSV is typically circulating, people were masking and really being careful and exercising caution and really staying away rom each other,” he said. “Almost all kids have already had RSV by age two.”

But in 2020, a lot of kids didn’t get RSV at all.

Myers cites an article from Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

“Throughout the winter and the fall, they saw zero cases of RSV...zero...and to me that’s unfathomable,” he said.

While there’s seasonability to it, Myers says RSV has a lot to do with proximity.

“Where people gather infection spreads,” he said.

With hospital officials reporting packed pediatricians offices Tuesday following the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the RSV trend is expected to continue, along with upticks in other child illnesses.

“There’s always a lag time, there’s some sort of incubation period, so within the next week or two we’ll probably see more cases like this,” said Myers.

Myers says there’s really no medicine that’s helpful for RSV, but there are things parents can do.

“There’s vaccine for RSV, but we often see viruses come at same time, and not get more than one thing at same time would help, so be up to date on vaccinations,” said Myers.

He says handwashing and cleaning hard surfaces could also help the spread.

“But really, probably the best way is if kids are sick is to just keep them away from other kids,” said Myers.

He says parents who believe their child has RSV should still see a pediatrician to check the severity because it could lead to hospitalization.

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