RSV hospitalizations were significantly higher than normal again last week amid a respiratory virus season that’s hitting the United States earlier and harder than usual, according to new data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cumulative RSV hospitalization rates have already reached levels that are typically not seen until December in the US. They’re rising among all age groups, but especially among children.
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common respiratory infection that typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but it can cause serious illness, particularly in older adults and infants.
About four out of every 1,000 babies under 6 months old have been hospitalized with RSV so far this season – just about a month in. More than two in every 1,000 babies between 6 months and one year have been hospitalized with RSV so far this season, as have more than one in every 1,000 children between age one and two.
Overall in the US, nearly one in five (19%) PCR tests for RSV were positive for the week ending October 29, nearly doubling over the course of the month.
Weekly cases counts are less complete for the most current weeks, but there have been more RSV cases detected by PCR tests each week in October 2022 than any other week in at least the past two years. Weekly case counts for the week ending October 22 were more than double any other week in 2020 or 2021.
And while there are signs that cases are slowing in the southern region of the US, test positivity rates and cases continue to rise steeply in other regions, especially in the Midwest.
The true national burden of RSV cases and hospitalizations is likely greater than reported because only a sample of laboratories and hospitals participate in the CDC’s surveillance programs.
Pediatric hospitals remain more full than average with patients with RSV and other conditions. According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds (77%) and pediatric ICU beds (80%) are currently in use nationwide, compared with an average of about two-thirds full over the past two years.
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Seventeen states have less than one in five hospital beds available. Six of them are more than 90% full: Rhode Island, Arizona, Kentucky, Maine, Delaware and Minnesota, along with Washington, DC.