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Louisville health officials report spike in RSV among children

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Norton Children’s Hospital is reporting an unseasonable spike in Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV. Over the past week, the hospital has admitted 66 patients with the respiratory virus, more than double the 32 this time last year. 

Health officials are also seeing a rise in rhinovirus and enterovirus, which often cause the common cold.

Dr. Doctor Scott Bickel, with Norton Children’s Pulmonology, said most children get RSV by age 2. Kids 6 months and younger and those who have other health conditions are at greater risk for severe illness.  

“The vast majority will do well, but you do just want to be aware of some of the symptoms of more severe disease and know how to address it,” he said. 

Bickel said parents should watch for signs including labored breathing, skin tugging, bluish lips or fingertips, and signs of dehydration, like fewer wet diapers. 

About 1% of kids under 6 months old who get RSV are hospitalized. Older adults can also become seriously ill. Patients usually show symptoms within 48 to 72 hours, and are contagious throughout the illness. 

Bickel said last year’s spike came earlier in the summer, with very few cases in 2020. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the spikes were usually seen in December and January. 

“It's hard to say exactly what will transpire during the winter," he said. “But you know, certainly seeing these viruses circulating early [indicates] that we could see higher rates … as we go forward.”

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

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Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.