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Physicians are still seeing significant levels of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, with the viral threat straining hospital emergency rooms, according to survey data from InCrowd.

Cases of the respiratory infection are expected to continue to climb during the winter months, the December 2022 report said.

The data, collected during a recent survey, found that 93% of physician respondents had treated patients for RSV over the prior two weeks, and had treated about 20 patients on average for the virus, up only slightly from 18 during the previous wave.

As prevalent as the virus is, there are signs that the spread is starting to level off. In a decline from previous waves of the virus, only 29% reported seeing a strong increase in RSV cases over the prior two weeks, though almost two-thirds say cases are more severe than in years past.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

RSV cases are still on the rise, though not as quickly as in the past wave, data showed. In the current wave – which the survey considers Wave 3 – the number of those treating RSV rose by only three percentage points, a smaller increase than in Wave 2. And average cases went from 18 to 20 between waves 2 and 3.

The tripledemic of RSV, flu and continued COVID-19 cases is causing long wait times in some ERs across the country.

Only 29% of respondents report a strong increase in RSV case numbers over the previous two weeks, as opposed to 44% in the two weeks prior. About 44% reported an increase, while 19% reported no change. Very few reported a decrease.

A peek into the severity of the virus shows that 9% consider the virus much more severe than in past waves, and 55% agree it’s more severe. Thirty-five percent say it’s about the same as in previous waves. 

In response, RSV laboratory test detection is increasing in all 10 Health and Human Services regions, except regions four and six, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

THE LARGER TREND

The CDC is warning of a surge in flu, RSV and other viral infections this season, especially among children and older adults.

The rise of respiratory diseases this year may be the direct result of COVID-19, according to the CDC. In the past two years, respiratory viral disease activity has been highly impacted by COVID-19, resulting in the circulation of other viruses, according to Dr. Jose Romero, director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“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,” Romero said during a December CDC news conference. “Currently, the United States is experiencing a resurgence in the circulation of non-COVID-19 respiratory viruses. Specifically, CDC has tracked elevated levels of influenza; respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV; and Rhino viruses and animal viruses. However, it’s important to note that COVID-19 is not gone, and CDC is continuing to track via the virus and its known variants.”

RSV is a common respiratory illness with no specific treatment beyond supportive care. Most children are able to recover at home, but the disease can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia in babies and toddlers.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: [email protected]

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