RSV is straining some hospitals, and US officials are releasing more shots for newborns


NEW YORK (AP) — RSV infections are rising sharply in some parts of the country, nearly filling hospital emergency departments in Georgia, Texas and some other states.

To help counter the surge, federal officials on Thursday announced they were releasing 77,000 doses of a new RSV shot for newborns that have been in short supply.

Reports of the seasonal virus are rising nationally, but experts said RSV is not expected to generate the kind of patient traffic seen last fall, when hospital emergency departments were overwhelmed with sick, wheezing kids.

Nevertheless, it will get worse and the virus may be intense in some places, said Dr. Meredith McMorrow, an RSV expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Georgia, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital system is in “surge” mode because of RSV, with a high volume of patients straining staff, said Dr. Jim Fortenberry, the system's chief medical officer.

In Virginia, 20 kids are currently hospitalized with RSV at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Health, with about half of them in the intensive care unit, said spokesperson Shira Pollard.

“Our emergency departments, our urgent cares are extremely busy. The pediatricians’ offices are extremely busy too,” Fortenberry said.

Not helping matters: Newly available shots to protect newborns against RSV remain in short supply, meaning a new medical weapon to ease the brunt of this season is not being fully deployed.

"It was really going to help and unfortunately there is a shortage, and we at Children’s are also seeing that shortage,” Fortenberry said.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common cause of mild cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever. Nearly all U.S. children normally catch it by age 2.

Still, it can be dangerous for infants and the elderly. The CDC estimates that RSV causes 100 to 300 deaths and 58,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations each year among kids aged 4 and under. It is the No. 1 cause of hospitalizations in U.S. infants, according to the CDC.

Its toll is even greater in adults 65 and older, causing 6,000 to 10,000 deaths and 60,000 to 160,000 hospitalizations, the CDC says.