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RSV expected to peak in Charlotte in ‘next several weeks,’ experts say

Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician with Novant Health, speaks to reporters on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2022.
Novant Health
Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician with Novant Health, speaks to reporters on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2022.

Even as many parents have relaxed about COVID-19, Charlotte-area doctors are seeing a surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The virus, which affects the lungs and breathing passages and often sickens children, is expected to peak in the next several weeks, local physicians said Tuesday.

“What we’re seeing now is what we would normally see in December,” said Dr. Lyn Nuse, specialty medical director of primary care pediatrics at Atrium Health. “What we don’t know anymore is will this season follow a fairly typical season or will it be much more intense?”

Lately, between 30 and 40 children are hospitalized with RSV on any given day at Atrium Health Levine Children’s, according to Nuse and Dr. Amina Ahmed, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Atrium.

“I think RSV will definitely peak in the next several weeks,” Ahmed said.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms like a runny nose and a cough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it can be dangerous for infants and young children, leading to inflamed airways or pneumonia.

Between 80% and 85% of children hospitalized across Novant Health are there with RSV, according to Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician. Priest said Tuesday he expects the number of RSV cases to continue growing, at least in the short term.

“What I anticipate is … we’re going to have this big peak of RSV and flu over the next few weeks,” Priest said.

Respiratory virus numbers have been climbing across the state in recent weeks. Datafrom North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services show 1,776 people tested positive for RSV between Oct. 8 and Oct. 22 — roughly 400 more than the previous two-week period.

About 1,300 North Carolinians tested positive for the flu in the two weeks ending Oct. 22, according to the same data. In South Carolina, health officials on Monday reported the state’s first pediatric flu death.

As the weather turns colder and more people gather indoors, including for holidays, Priest expects “some increase” in COVID-19 cases, too.

“I don’t think it’ll be a (COVID-19) peak like we had last year. But I think, if you add all of the viruses together, it could be similar to last year,” he said.

Health officials recommend residents get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, stay up-to-date on COVID-19 boosters, stay home if they feel sick and wash their hands regularly. Parents who are concerned their child may have RSV or another respiratory illness should contact their pediatrician.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.