CDC warns RSV spreading quickly in the South, including Alabama

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 10:45 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The CDC is warning of a new increase in RSV cases, saying the respiratory illness is spreading quickly across the South.

“We were very happy to see that RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, we actually saw very very low levels of it during Covid-19,” Jefferson County Infectious disease expert Dr. Wesley Willeford said. “Here in Alabama, over the last few weeks, we have begun to see an uptick in cases in that percent positivity. The number of tests that were sent for RSV, that were positive for RSV, those have gotten fairly high.”

Willeford says the cases are likely due to the removal of face masks. He said RSV is spread when a person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces. He said it is one of the most common causes of lung infections in babies under a year old and can be deadly.

“It can also be a very hard infection on children who have multiple health problems,” he said. “You can also see it affect adults, usually over the age of 65, those with lung conditions can also be hospitalized.”

Willeford said the symptoms can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms.

“Someone comes in cough, shortness of breathe or a wheeze, and they have a negative Covid-19 test, what the CDC is wanting to get out there is that you really need to be checking for RSV in these people who don’t have Covid-19.”

Dr. Willeford said babies and children may have weaker immune systems right now because masks likely prevented them from being exposed to viruses like RSV before.

“Making sure family members are washing their hands and making sure you are keeping the little one’s hands clean as much as possible during this time,” he said.

RSV can spread easily, but Dr. Willeford said only if you’re having symptoms.

“RSV tends to be once you are having symptoms is really when you are spreading, so that is the time that you should be most concerned that you are passing it on to someone else,” Willeford said.

Dr. Willeford said to one way to help stay safe is avoid daycare or play dates if your kid has a cough or scratchy throat until they can see a doctor.

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