TSU expert cautions parents to ‘be on the watch’ with new spike in RSV cases

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is on the rise in Tennessee, with spike in cases and hospitalization, especially among infants and children. Experts caution parents to be more proactive in helping to keep their children stay symptom free.

Dr. Wendelyn Inman

Dr. Wendelyn Inman, an epidemiologist and public health expert, says while adults may only show signs of the common cold, RSV among children – especially those under a year old – shows more severe symptoms because their lungs are more susceptible to the inflammatory effects of the virus. 

“In some cases, children showing these symptoms need supplemental oxygen and hospitalization because of severe respiratory infections,” says Inman, professor and director of the public health program in the College of Health Sciences. She warns parents “to be on the watch.” 

“If you have an infant, wash your hands frequently and keep sick friends and family members away to prevent the spread of RSV,” she says, adding, “Watch your child. If they show any symptoms, take them to the pediatrician as soon as possible.”

Inman also cautions parents to avoid close contacts, cover coughs or sneezes, and clean surfaces (doorknobs, car seats, mobile devices) frequently.

Dr. Dorsha N. James

This summer, as in Tennessee, there was an increase in RSV cases in many areas of the country with the expectation it would accelerate in the fall. The trend has played out as expected, and even more adults in Tennessee are coming down with RSV, according to local news reports. 

At TSU, officials say over the past 5-6 weeks, there has been “a drastic” uptick in the number of sick visits to the Student Health Services Clinic for upper respiratory symptoms, such as cough, congestion, running nose, and others.

“Luckily for these otherwise healthy individuals, the virus will only usually cause mild, cold-like symptoms,” says Dr. Dorsha N. James, interim medical director of student health. “In light of our decreasing COVID cases, I would make the assumption that we are seeing some cases as a result of RSV.” 

On COVID-19 and the flu, two of the three viruses with RSV that are going around, the officials warn individuals to get immunized as the surest way to avoid serious illness or hospitalization. Flu activity reportedly increases in October and peaks between December and February.

 “Get your flu shots and get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible if you already haven’t,” Inman cautions. “We are seeing that people who are immunized against COVID and the flu are still not in the majority of the cases that are severe and dying.” 

For more information on how to protect against RSV, COVID or the flu, visit the Tennessee Department of Health at www.tn.gov/health.html.