Respiratory Syncytial Virus Cases Up Across the Southern U.S., CDC Warns

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is spreading across parts of the Southern United States during an unusual time of year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned last week.

On June 10, the CDC issued a health advisory alerting health care providers and caregivers about an unseasonable rise in cases of RSV, a common, flu-like respiratory illness that is usually mild but can cause serious sickness in vulnerable populations—including babies, young kids, and older adults who have chronic medical conditions. And according to the advisory, babies and toddlers may be at particularly high risk for severe illness as we continue to emerge from the pandemic.

RSV usually peaks during cold and flu season in the U.S., but we didn’t see that pattern this year. Cases dropped off sharply in April 2020 and stayed low through this fall and winter, according to the CDC. RSV mostly spreads via respiratory droplets (from coughing or sneezing) and direct contact with a contaminated surface, so the unusually low infection rates are probably thanks to public health measures taken during the pandemic, like wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding indoor crowds, and increased hand washing.

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