Douglas County Health Department reports rise in RSV cases

Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 11:57 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Cases of a common respiratory virus are on the rise in Nebraska.

According to the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD), health officials have seen a surge in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

The virus commonly affects children, but adults can catch it as well.

“RSV is not rare, and it is treatable, but it can make young children very sick,” said Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse. “We want parents and providers to be aware of the situation so that we can reduce the number of cases and preserve those scarce ICU beds.”

RSV is contagious and affects the lungs and breathing passages. Cases often rise in winter, but DCHD says they’ve seen cases rising earlier than normal this fall. There were also a surprisingly high amount of cases during the summer of 2021.

This week saw 205 positive cases of RSV in Douglas County. This week last year saw just 33 cases. The previous week this year saw 182 cases - with the same week a year prior having just 73.

DCHD says this trend of rising cases began prior to last week. They say another concern is a recent report showing that pediatric ICU beds are near capacity.

According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, there has been a sharp increase statewide in positive RSV tests. There have been more than 400 positive tests in the past week.

Statewide, there have been 269 emergency department visits for RSV-related reasons in the past week. The majority of emergency department visits are for children four years of age and under.

Hospitalizations for RSV are usually because the patient has trouble breathing or becomes dehydrated, according to DCHD. Children and older adults with chronic conditions are among the most at risk.

RSV can also be contracted more than once, and children will often get it within their first two years.

Symptoms of the virus are similar to the common cold, but RSV can also cause more serious infections - including the inflammation of the small airways in the lungs, which is particularly a concern for infants.

DCHD says RSV can be treated with over-the-counter medicine to treat symptoms, but ideally a parent should speak to a healthcare provider before giving a child OTC medicine for RSV.