US hospitals are under pressure as cases of three respiratory viruses — the flu, COVID-19, and RSV — surge at the same time and earlier than usual, experts said Friday.
Children are being hit hard by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which causes chest infection and bronchiolitis in infants and has led to unusually high rates of hospitalization in several countries around the world this season.
We suspect that many children are being exposed to some respiratory viruses now for the first time, having avoided these viruses during the height of the pandemic, José Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told a news conference.
All three of the respiratory viruses that are going around have similar symptoms, and even though most people get better in a week or two, very young and very old people are more likely to get very sick.
A surveillance system that tracks visits to outpatient medical providers and emergency departments for cold-like symptoms such as fever or sore throat has shown high activity for this time of year, he said.
We are seeing the highest rates of influenza hospitalization in a decade.
He warned that if a child had difficulty breathing, bluish lips, muscle pain, or was dehydrated, it was crucial to see a doctor.
Experts say it’s still hard to say whether this year’s flu virus caused worse-than-usual illness, but it started circulating particularly early.
The United States continues to register more than 270,000 cases of COVID-19 per week.
Dawn O’Connell, the deputy secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, said that hospitals in the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Washington states are under a lot of stress right now.
Vaccines are currently available for two of the circulating viruses, COVID-19 and the flu, yet flu vaccination rates for children are below what they were before the pandemic.
This week, Pfizer said that an RSV vaccine it was testing in a clinical trial went well. Scientists and researchers have failed to find a successful vaccine for the virus for the past 50 years.