RSV spike continues in North Texas

Jones said there are some theories as to why there is a summer wave this year.

TARRANT COUNTY, Texas – In late July, Kimberly Lee noticed that her 2-year-old, Annabel, had a mild cough. The next day she noticed she had a high fever.

“I thought nothing of it,” Lee said. “I thought she was teething or something.”

But the fever didn’t stop.

“The cough was worse, she got a runny nose, the sick-looking eyes, and she still had a high fever,” Lee said.

She took Annabel to the doctor where she was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a respiratory virus commonly found in young children.

Lee said Annabel appeared to be on the mend after she was diagnosed, but when she stopped eating and drinking she had to be admitted to Cook Children’s.

She was there for two nights, until she could regain strength and moisture. Lee said her oxygen levels were dropping, but luckily she didn’t need supplemental oxygen or help breathing.

“In the winter, it’s not uncommon to have a large number of beds with children in them with RSV,” said Russ Jones, the epidemiology and health information manager for the Tarrant County Public Health Department.

North Texas started seeing an abnormal summer peak in June.

RELATED: Summer Peak of RSV Cases Unlike What Doctors in North Texas Have Ever Seen

On Friday, Cook Children’s reported that it is seeing about 200 cases a week. This week, the DFW Hospital Council reported 150 pediatric patients on ventilators but only 66 pediatric COVID hospitalizations, citing an “unusual” number of RSV patients for the season.

Jones said there are some theories as to why there is a summer wave this year.

“Many of us have been in this for the past year and a half. In masks. We also kept social distancing,” Jones said.

He said there have been far fewer masks worn, social distancing and much more contact made since the spring. Although RSV usually does not manifest as a serious infection in adults, adults can transmit it to young children.

“We didn’t go through the typical season like we did before, so we probably have a lot of sensitive people, so we’re seeing it during the non-winter season that we normally do,” Jones said.

The department, in conjunction with the CDC, reported data showing that the positivity rate for RSV in the province was above 50% in July and is currently above 36%. In 2020, it hovered around 1% throughout the summer and was only slightly higher for the summer of 2019.

The county’s 0-4 age group has the highest rate of emergency room visits for RSV of all county age groups.

The hopeful news is that numbers in Tarrant County will begin to decline slightly in August.

Jones said there isn’t enough data to know whether RSV makes children more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, but he said children can have both at the same time.

“There is no vaccine for it, and the treatment as I understand it is supportive care,” Jones said.

For this reason, Jones said a lack of pediatric ICU beds in North Texas is a cause for concern as pediatric COVID and RSV cases increase.

RELATED: COVID Updates: Texas Now Hospitalized More People Compared to Summer 2020 Peak

Jones said the best way to protect children from RSV is to stay away from small children if you feel like you have a cold, wear a mask and wash your hands. He said the symptoms are usually mild at first, so if you notice your little child has flu-like symptoms, keep an eye on them for a few days.

RSV can cause babies to have trouble breathing or stop breathing. He said, if you notice that, call your pediatrician right away.

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