Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics Warn of Increases in Respiratory Viruses this Season
In early November, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a joint letter warning families of an early uptick in the incidence of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus and enterovirus, and influenza state-wide and nationally. The letter, which includes steps for preventing illness, can be read in its entirety below.
The Commonwealth, the Northeast and much of the US are seeing increases in respiratory illness in infants and children. Some of these infants and children are requiring hospitalization for support with breathing and hydration. Emergency departments and other acute care health facilities have been managing significant increases in the number of patients requiring care.
Most of these illnesses are caused by respiratory viral infections, including common seasonal viruses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus and enterovirus, and influenza. Infants and children may be particularly susceptible to seasonal respiratory viral infections during the 2022-2023 fall and winter because they have had limited previous exposure to these respiratory viruses. We anticipate that there could be more respiratory illnesses as RSV continues to spread and influenza season ramps up.
The Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics want to remind parents and families about steps to take to prevent illness and stay healthy this season:
- Vaccinate your children ages 6 months and older against influenza as soon as possible.
- Vaccinate your children ages 6 months and older against COVID-19; children 5 and older who had their primary series more than 2 months ago should receive an updated COVID-19 booster as soon as possible.
- Remember, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time.
- If your infant has been offered treatment with protective antibodies due to their prematurity or another condition, keep on schedule with their monthly treatments.
- Practice hand hygiene frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or if a tissue is not available, cover them with an elbow, not a hand.
- Clean high touch surfaces in your home frequently with household disinfectants.
- Keep children home from daycare or school who have fever, especially with a cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, congestion, runny nose, or sore throat, until they are fever-free for 24 hours without medications that reduce fever.
- Avoid social gatherings if you or your children are ill.
- Contact your pediatrician or healthcare provider if you believe your child needs medical care. Your provider can offer advice on whether your child needs to be evaluated in person, tested for COVID or flu, and the best location (doctor’s office, urgent care, emergency room) for care.
In addition to young children, older adults are also at risk for experiencing complications related to respiratory viruses such as RSV, Influenza, and COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 60,000-120,000 older adults in the United States are hospitalized and 6,000-10,000 of them die due to RSV infection alone.
While there is no vaccine to prevent RSV infection yet, scientists are working hard to develop one. If you are concerned about your risk for RSV, talk to your healthcare provider.
CDC: Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Infection
Cape Cod Healthcare: What Parents Need to Know about the RSV Surge
CDC: People at High Risk for RSV
In Depth: American Medical Academy: Flu spreads while two new COVID subvariants & RSV infections rise with Andrea Garcia, JD, MPH
Older Adults are at high risk for severe RSV infection (cdc.gov)
Los Adultos mayores tienen alto riesgo de contraer una infección grave por el VRS (cdc.gov)
RSV in Infants and Young Children (cdc.gov)
El VRS en los bebés y niños pequeños