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Rate of RSV hospitalizations for seniors is 10 times higher than normal

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Posted at 4:16 PM, Nov 16, 2022

(WXYZ) — RSV hospitalization rates are not just high for children this time of the year but also for seniors.

The hospitalization rate for adults aged 65 and older right now is 10 times higher than usual. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 6 out of every 100,000 seniors are being hospitalized with RSV, or respiratory syncytial infection.

Now, that number may seem small, but it’s a lot higher than what’s normally seen in early November. When you look as far back as the 2014-2015 season, the CDC rate has not been higher than 1.0 per 100,000.

Now, here’s more interesting data. A study from 2015 that looked at industrialized countries found that out of 1.5 million adults who caught RSV, 14.5% were admitted to hospitals. That’s substantial. It also found that seniors — ages 65 and older — were more likely to be hospitalized than adults between the ages of 50 and 64. 

RSV is a concern and adults often don’t take it as seriously as they should. Because when it comes to deaths, there are between 10,000 and 15,000 adult deaths due to RSV each year.

Most adults will get symptoms like:

  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever and wheezing

Treatment is supportive care, which means drinking lots of fluids, staying home and getting rest. It typically takes about one to two weeks before symptoms clear up. But when it comes to older adults, the concern is that the virus will lead to dehydration and possible pneumonia and bronchiolitis, which is inflammation of the lung’s small airway, especially if they have a weakened immune system or chronic heart or lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure.
Having said that, if anyone starts feeling short of breath or wheezing, then it’s a good idea to check in with your family doctor. Or, if necessary, go straight to the nearest emergency room. Supplemental oxygen, IV fluids or intubation with mechanical ventilation can be administered if needed.

Right now, there’s no vaccine for RSV. But hopefully, that will change by next season as there are four RSV vaccines in clinical trials in the U.S. And data may be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration in the near future.

In the meantime, please take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. The precautionary measures are the usual: wash your hands often, clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces and wear a mask if you’re high risk. And, of course, stay up to date on your vaccines, especially for influenza and COVID-19.