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CDPHE monitoring 'sharp increase' in RSV hospitalizations, outbreaks

95% of hospitalizations are among children, CDPHE says
RSV 010920
Posted at 7:46 PM, Oct 28, 2022

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said Friday it is monitoring a "sharp increase" in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) hospitalizations and outbreaks.

Since Oct. 1, there have been 292 RSV-related hospitalizations in the Denver metro area, and 95% are among children, according to CDPHE. There have also been 42 confirmed RSV outbreaks since Oct. 1, primarily in child care and school settings, CDPHE said.

The number of hospitalizations and outbreaks is more than double from the same timeframe last year, according to the department.

These RSV cases are occurring "earlier than usual in the respiratory illness season," CDPHE said Friday.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms. While most people recover in a week or two, RSV can be serious for infants and older adults.

Symptoms of RSV typically show up within four to six days after infection and include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

According to the CDC, RSV can spread through several ways, including:

  • An infected person coughs or sneezes
  • You get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands
  • You have direct contact with the virus, like kissing the face of a child with RSV

CDPHE sent a Health Alert Network message to health care providers across the state Friday about the increase. The department said the increase is "putting a strain on the pediatric hospital system." CDPHE staff is coordinating with hospitals as they plan for the possibility of more cases.

“The increase in RSV-related hospitalizations in Colorado in recent weeks is very concerning. Fortunately, there are steps we can take individually through frequently washing your hands, disinfecting hard surfaces, and staying home when sick. Children with RSV can develop wheezing, poor feeding and dehydration, which can lead to hospitalization. Connecting with your primary care or pediatric provider if your child is not getting better may help to keep your child out of the hospital,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France said in a statement.

Child care centers and schools can help stop the spread of RSV through increased handwashing, disinfection of surfaces and areas, and illness policies.

CDPHE said Coloradans can help slow the spread of RSV by:

  • Staying home when you are sick, including not visiting or interacting with people who may be at higher risk, including older adults, young children, and infants.
  • Frequently washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Encouraging children to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or upper arm sleeve when they cough or sneeze, throw away the tissue after they use it, and clean hands as instructed above.
  • Cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces, like doorknobs, tables, handrails, etc.
  • Avoiding sharing cups and eating utensils and touching your face with unwashed hands.

To learn more about RSV cases in Colorado, click here.