RSV cases increasing in NELA

Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, are increasing in the ArkLaMiss.
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 11:01 AM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, are increasing in the ArkLaMiss.

Doctors at St. Francis Medical Center say they’re seeing cases earlier in the year than in previous years at the hospital and in their clinics.

Dr. Joaquin Rosales, a pediatric hospitalist at St. Francis, says they’re treating cases of RSV every week at the hospital.

“It used to be seasonal and it usually hit Monroe, Louisiana at the end of December or early January and lasted through March,” explained Dr. Rosales. “We’re now seeing it year-round. You know, we’ve seen a shift in epidemiology in all viral infections. We’re seeing the flu -- this is not flu season -- we’re seeing a lot of flu now. We’re seeing RSV at this time.”

Each year, the CDC estimates between 58,000 - 80,000 children younger than five are hospitalized with RSV around the country.

Jase Fertal is one of those kids who needed to be hospitalized.

“It really did a number on him,” said Jase’s mom, Abigail Fertal. “I mean, it took him like I said a full week to eat what he had been eating before, you could just tell he was tired.”

She says he started not feeling well and they brought him to his pediatrician, but eventually, he just needed some extra help.

“We had another incident where he was just working so hard to breathe it felt like the nebulizers and the medicines we were doing weren’t working so we went to St. Francis and when they did his oxygen monitor at room air it was at 85 and so they were really concerned and that’s when they admitted us,” says Fertal.

Baby Jase, four months old at the time, spent three nights in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at St. Francis. Fertal says they were worried about dehydration, so they were glad he could be monitored there.

“He was in that window where it’s like you know it’s a little more serious when they’re sick when they’re that little,” says Fertal.

Dr. Rosales says RSV can cause anywhere from a cold to pneumonia.

“You can get a decrease in appetite, you can get a runny nose, you can get a cough, you can have a fever, the big one is wheezing,” says Dr. Rosales. “With COVID, these children were wearing masks, they were not attending daycare so they were not exposed to the viruses they are normally exposed to. Now that they are out, there’s greater exposure and I think that’s why we’re seeing more RSV.”

Doctors are urging parents to be safe with RSV and the flu rampant in the region.

“Clean those toys. It can last several hours on hard surfaces,” said Dr. Rosales.

“Families need to be careful. No kissing on babies. Keep your tiny babies home for a while right now,” explains Christa Lewis, the director of women’s and children’s services at St. Francis. “RSV is everywhere. It’s rampant. You’ve got to be sure that you’re washing your hands.”

During flu and RSV season, Lewis says they change the visitation rules at the St. Francis NICU. Only parents and grandparents are able to visit to keep sickness to a minimum.