PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Hospitals in Rhode Island are seeing an increased number of children being diagnosed with a virus usually only seeing during the winter months.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause at-risk people who become infected to wind up in the hospital.
Hasbro Children’s Hospital tells Target 12 they normally start seeing kids with RSV from November to March, but as of late, there’s been a surge of cases in Florida and more infections are showing up in Rhode Island.
Experts say about a million kids wind up in the hospital every year because of RSV, which infects the lungs and breathing passages.
For most people who get infected, it’s like the common cold, but the virus can cause serious complications for those under the age of 2 and the elderly.
“The amount of RSV in New England is definitely increasing right now,” said Dr. Michael Koster, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Hasbro.
Koster said it’s unusual to see cases pop up in the summertime, adding that some children have had to be hospitalized.
“In the last few months, maybe we have had a dozen of RSV and bronchitis,” he said. “Typically, in the wintertime in our hospital — we have about a 70-bed inpatient with 16 ICU beds — we might have anywhere from 30-40 kids with bronchitis on any given day.”
While Koster said what’s causing the jump in cases is currently unclear, he believes the pandemic is partly to blame.
“There is no doubt it has something to do with COVID, because COVID competitively took over the market of people’s noses, and so we didn’t see anything like flu or RSV or anything like that,” Koster explained. “We have tests now that often include things like influenza and RSV in that test for COVID, so that’s why we are seeing a little bit more that we traditionally might see this time of year because we wouldn’t typically be testing for it.”
If there is a surge in RSV cases this coming winter, that could spell trouble for hospitals that are also dealing with COVID-19 variants. He said the best way to prevent spreading RSV is simply by washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough.