RSV surge filling Minnesota pediatrician offices ahead of holidays

‘Tis the season for gathering with friends and family, and also the season for fast-spreading illnesses.

A respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) spike started in the last couple of weeks while flu and COVID-19 cases are still minimal, so if you know someone who’s been sick, there’s a good chance they have RSV.

As a result, doctors are suggesting we take precautions this holiday season.

The sudden surge of activity arrived in late October for Minnesota pediatricians.

"We're getting lots of colds, snotty noses, coughs, fevers coming in," Dr. Elizabeth Placzek, a pediatrician with Children's Minnesota told FOX 9. "We're pretty busy."

RSV is currently driving the increase in doctor’s visits.

Symptoms like coughing and fever look pretty similar to the flu or COVID-19, but testing has revealed it’s only RSV and the common cold on the rise right now.

Doctors say in some cases, it can lead to severe breathing illness and pneumonia, which can be life-threatening, especially for the very young and old.

The virus is seasonal, so Dr. Placzek says spikes are expected at this time of year as cold weather drives people indoors for gatherings.

"These are things that are droplet spread," she said. "So coughing, sneezing, being close to someone is how you can catch it."

A recently published study also found prior COVID-19 infections make kids significantly more susceptible to RSV, which partly explains the especially big spike last winter.

Dr. Placzek says we can prevent a lot of the infections with methods that are now familiar to most of us, including wearing a mask in public when you don’t feel tip-top.

There’s also a vaccine for people over 60 and an antibody treatment for children, but they’re both in short supply.

The CDC released 77,000 more doses of the children’s treatment last week, so those should get to doctors soon.