RSV cases on the rise in South Carolina

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Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 12:33 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Health officials are working to avoid what some are calling a “triple-demic” of respiratory illnesses in South Carolina.

During a special meeting on Thursday, Oct. 27, Prisma Health officials announced an overwhelming surge of three respiratory viruses impacting the pediatric community: COVID-19, Influenza-A (the flu), and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

“The rate of rise has been fairly rapid for RSV, and it’s led to more of those young ones needing to be hospitalized, and certainly for a number of children needing to seek medical care,” said Dr. Robin Lacroix, a pediatric infectious disease expert for Prisma Health.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that typically affects children below the age of two. But health officials say positive RSV cases have tripled in one months’ time across various age groups.

“[RSV] has been the number one respiratory virus that we’re seeing, mainly in outpatient settings and inpatient settings. But starting this week, I feel like we’re starting to see the RSV decreasing some, and influenza a taking its place,” Dr. Anna Kathryn Burch, another pediatric infectious disease specialist for Prisma.

Dr. Burch said the combination of RSV, the flu, and never-ending COVID has resulted in packed ICUs and unprecedented hospitalizations from Greenville to Columbia.

“What we have been able to do is to open what we call ‘surge beds.’ Meaning that we’re able to expand our capacity and take care of critically ill children over that period of time,” said Dr. Lacroix.

Despite faculty and unit expansions, some parents are turning to independent practices like the Palmetto Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic on Park Central Dr. in Columbia.

“I suspect that, to some degree, we have this big population of children who, for over two years, weren’t really exposed to anything,” said Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, the primary care physician for Palmetto Pediatric.

Dr. Greenhouse attested to an uptick in RSV cases during an interview with WIS last week. The accredited pediatrician said two years of quarantining limited children to RSVs exposure.

“Their bodies didn’t see these viruses and they didn’t develop much of an immune response to them, or perhaps their immune response waned over the two years they weren’t exposed,” said Dr. Greenhouse on Oct. 21.

No licensed vaccine against RSV exists. In that, Dr. Lacroix said the first and only line of defense against RSV is a child’s immune system.

“Children, thankfully, get better quickly. And so, once they begin to recover from some of these illnesses and they’re able to. They just heal so much better from home. So we work to get them home as quickly as possible,” concluded Dr. Lacroix.

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