Arizona experiencing early spike of RSV cases, especially among kids

Oct 24, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 7:11 am
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — A seasonal respiratory virus most common among young children is making its annual appearance in Arizona earlier than usual, as is the case in many parts of the nation.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, RSV cases are up more than 340% compared to a typical season. A total of 583 cases have been reported since this season began on Oct. 2. The vast majority of cases are among children under the age of 4.

Dr. Rahul Chawla, pediatric intensive care and pediatric emergency room physician at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, said RSV cases usually spike during the winter months in Arizona.

“But this year it’s gotten here a little earlier,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We see kids that are less than a year of age, especially less than 6 months of age, who are getting RSV.”

He noted most children will get sick with the virus by the time they’re 2 years old. They usually start out with a runny nose, decrease in appetite or a cough that may progress to wheezing.

“For most kids, it just causes a common kind of cold or viral upper respiratory infection symptoms,” Chawla said. “But for some kids it can cause them to have lung disease with something called bronchiolitis, which is inflammation of the lower airways, and also pneumonia.”

He said young children with severe RSV infection may experience dehydration, trouble breathing and difficulty feeding. They may need to be hospitalized to receive oxygen therapy, intubation or mechanical ventilation to help them breathe better.

Some hospitals across the country have reported beds are filling up with children who are sick with RSV. In Arizona, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

In a statement sent to KTAR News 92.3 FM, Phoenix Children’s Division of Infectious Diseases said the hospital “has seen a significant increase in RSV cases over the past few weeks” but is not experiencing any capacity issues.

Chawla said Banner Health hospitals throughout Arizona also don’t have capacity issues despite seeing an uptick in RSV cases. He stressed most kids who get the virus will not need to be hospitalized and will only require supportive care at home.

“That includes Tylenol for fever,” he said. “Make sure they’re hydrating and that they’re eating.”

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Arizona experiencing early spike of RSV cases, especially among kids