Utah RSV Cases 'increasing Rapidly,' Doctor Says; Preventive Measures Encouraged - Gatous News

Utah RSV cases ‘increasing rapidly,’ doctor says; preventive measures encouraged

RSV surges are coming earlier than usual this year in Utah and are reaching a record-setting number of cases in some hospitals around the country, according to a Primary Children’s Hospital doctor. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah doctors are bracing for a bad RSV season and Dr. Andrew Pavia says the respiratory syncytial virus is “here and increasing rapidly.”

The RSV outbreak is coming earlier than usual this year and is reaching record-setting levels in some hospitals around the country, according to Pavia, who specializes in infectious diseases at University of Utah Health and Primary Children’s Hospital.

He said there is typically an RSV outbreak in December and January that is considered “moderately severe” and brings some very sick children to the hospitals. This year, however, the RSV outbreak looks even more serious.

Concerns about RSV are compounded by what has been called a “tripledemic” — a term Pavia said was invented to describe three viruses hitting at once. In this case, those viruses are RSV, COVID-19 and the flu.

“When viruses hit at once, it can really overwhelm capacity that’s set up to handle the surge,” Pavia said.

He said there is always substantial flu activity in Utah. And although it is not yet at dangerous levels in the state this year, it is at dangerous levels in some southern states and doctors are concerned about a rapid increase over the next few weeks. Pavia said Utah has also seen a slight uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases, and although it is unpredictable, there is concern about cases rising during the winter season.

But Pavia says there are currently good vaccines available for both COVID-19 and the flu.

“People can still get infected after getting the vaccines, but it’s your best way of preventing you or your children (from) ending up in the hospital or ending up very sick,” he said.

RSV currently does not have any vaccines, so to combat RSV, Pavia said people should rely on “old-fashioned but effective preventative measures” like keeping infants away from sick people, wearing a mask, covering coughs or sneezes and washing hands.

“As we go into a season where we’re going to see a lot of viral disease — and some of it has the chance of being fairly severe — I think it’s important that parents remember that prevention is the tool that we’ve really got , and that you can use,” Pavia said.

Preventative measures can help keep infants and families healthy, especially since emergency departments and doctors can be overwhelmed by an influx of cases.


It’s important that parents remember that prevention is the tool that we’ve really got, and that you can use.

-Dr. Andrew Pavia, infectious disease specialist


Most children with RSV can be treated by a pediatrician, but Pavia said parents should look for signs of dehydration and difficulty breathing when considering whether to take a child to the emergency room. He said symptoms of RSV can prevent children from eating and drinking because of secretions in their small airways.

“You’ll notice fewer wet diapers and difficulty taking a bottle or eating food — and when that happens, it’s time to be seen by your physician. If a child’s lethargic, if they’re not urinating at all, you probably need to go straight to the emergency room,” Pavia said.

He said difficulty breathing in young children can be seen through fast breathing, signs that they are working hard to breathe, blueness in the lips or fingers or severe lethargy.

Pavia said doctors are on the verge of multiple effective preventative measures for RSV which could be available starting next year. Some examples include an RSV vaccine for elderly people who can also be hit hard by the virus, successful research into vaccinated mothers passing RSV protection onto their infants, and long-acting monoclonal antibodies which could protect children through the winter.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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