HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Its scientific name is respiratory syncytial virus, but it’s more commonly known as RSV.
Doctors say that it’s a common respiratory condition among children; however, what is not common is that health experts are seeing cases spike much earlier than expected.
Symptoms resemble a cold but can be very severe for children under 10. RSV has even closed down Austinville Elementary School in Decatur and doctors fear that it could get much worse.
A woman in Morgan County told News 19 that when the child that she was watching, who is a student in the Morgan County school system, had a persistent cough that wouldn’t go away, she knew that something was wrong. The family rushed the child into the hospital, and she was diagnosed with RSV.
“She went into respiratory failure, and they all came in and then they incubated her,” the woman said.
Now there are growing concerns of a possible triple pandemic this winter: the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 combined. Dr. Wes Stubblefield of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) says RSV is three months ahead of its peak this year.
“During the pandemic, the seasons shifted a bit but in 2021, we saw RSV unusually in the summertime, and in 2022 we’ve seen a more typical pattern with RSV showing up in the wintertime,” Stubblefield explained.
Decatur City Schools reported 100 students at Austinville diagnosed with flu-like symptoms. Classes were shut down immediately on Tuesday, but the outbreak is growing across the country. The CDC reports that cases are up 143% nationally since September. Health experts say that RSV is among the group of viruses that have shifted in the seasonal diagnosis.
“At the height of the pandemic we had school closures, and we were socially isolated, and we were wearing masks and during that period we were not seeing the other viruses including RSV,” said Dr. Michele Kong of UAB Children’s Hospital. “In fact, for the first year and a half, we were not seeing RSV during the typical winter and spring seasons.”
ADPH says symptoms start like a typical cold, but parents should still be on the lookout for RSV.
“It can drag on for days and days. If they’ve got a cold that just doesn’t seem to get better and keeps getting worse, especially if they are having difficulty drinking from a bottle because they are breathing fast, or they hear rattling in their chest with difficulty breathing, then the child will need to see their healthcare provider,” said Stubblefield.
ADPH says that they had no input on Austinville closing which is strictly a school’s decision.
Officials say the school will remain closed for the rest of this week and reopen on October 31.