Respiratory syncytial virus, more commonly known as RSV, sends thousands of children to the hospital every year in the U.S. But during September and October 2022, health professionals across the country have watched an unprecedented spike in the number of cases of this usually mild, but occasionally dangerous, respiratory infection in children. Jennifer Girotto is a pharmacist who studies pediatric infectious diseases. She explains how RSV infects the human body, who is most at risk and what might be causing this year’s outbreak to be worse than normal.
1. What is respiratory syncytial virus?
RSV is a common, RNA respiratory virus that affects about 2 million children under 5 years old annually nationwide. Researchers think that most children have been infected by age 2. Like the flu, in most areas of the U.S., RSV usually circulates from November through March and then mostly disappears during the summer months, with only sporadic cases being seen.