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How to prevent RSV in infants

As we approach what is known as the typical Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) season, approximately October through May, Lurie Children’s Infectious Diseases Physicians Dr. William Muller and Dr. Tina Tan share tangible ways parents can help protect children from contracting the virus via Nirsevimab and beyond.

RSV is a common and potentially dangerous virus that affects almost all infants and young children before 2 years old and has been a significant factor in the rise in hospitalizations of young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV infections result in 80,000 hospitalizations and up to 300 deaths in children under 5 every year.

“RSV is transmitted by direct or close contact with contaminated respiratory secretions from sneezing, coughing or touching a surface contaminated with these secretions,” said Tan. “The virus may be shed from an infected individual for three to eight days but may be longer in young infants, where shedding may continue for three to four weeks.”

While early symptoms of RSV are non-specific, they may include a runny nose, decreased appetite, decreased activity, low grade fever, irritability and cough.

Although a highly contagious virus, an innovative new protection tactic in the fight against RSV has provided some hope for infants.

Currently, the CDC recommends Nirsevimab (Beyfortus), an immunization for all infants younger than 8 months of age who are born during, or are entering, their first RSV season. Research conducted around this new immunization showed that healthy infants who received Nirsevimab were 74.5% less likely to experience an RSV infection that needed medical care than those who received a placebo.

“Nirsevimab is a single-dose medication given once a year,” said Muller. “The single dose provides protection for the length of the RSV viral season, typically five months.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

“For infants born during RSV season, ideally, the medication should be administered within one week after birth,” said Muller. “The medication is also recommended for infants 8-19 months of age at high risk for severe RSV and who are entering their second RSV season.”

In addition to this new development in medicine, physicians urge families and those who oversee shared spaces like daycares, to promote a few simple behaviors that can make a big difference.

“Things such as frequent handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, proper tissue disposal, avoiding exposure to secondhand tobacco or vaping smoke, and having infected individuals wear a mask around infants can all be impactful prevention tools,” Tan said. “In addition, try to prevent children from sharing cups, glasses and utensils, if possible,
clean and disinfect all surfaces on a regular basis, particularly after contact with ill children, and always have ill caregivers and children stay home from work, school and/or daycare.”

For families with questions about RSV prevention and protection for their infant, it’s recommended they talk with their primary care physician or pediatrician. To learn more about RSV, visit

Children’s health is a continuing series. This column was provided by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

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