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Respiratory infections in children are beginning to tick up in Oklahoma

Robby Korth
StateImpact Oklahoma
Prevention strategies against RSV include handwashing and cleaning often-touched surfaces, such as doorknobs.

Oklahoma doctors are beginning to see cases of a common respiratory virus that can be dangerous for children. The rise is in line with annual trends.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus can present pretty similarly to the cold or a flu, and it’s usually not a serious concern in adults. It has many symptoms, but they combine to restrict airways. Smaller airways in children mean the issue can become severe much more quickly.

As of early October, there were about 100 cases in Oklahoma, according to state data. A spokesman said this data is limited, though. Unlike some diseases, like COVID, HIV or most sexually transmitted diseases, there isn’t a requirement to report those cases to the health department. But positivity rates are at about 13 percent. In northeast Oklahoma, the rate is even higher at 22 percent.

For the past two years, RSV has seen spikes outside of its normal season. Generally, there’s a surge along with the flu when temperatures drop come fall. But in 2020 and in 2021, that surge took place during the summer.

Physicians in the Oklahoma City metro told StateImpact in August 2021 that RSV cases were filling children’s hospitals, with some ending up on ventilators.

This year appears to be more in line with normal trends, but pediatric hospitals and emergency departments around the country are seeing unusually high rates of respiratory illness among children for this time of year.

Prevention strategies are the same for RSV as they are for other respiratory infections such as COVID and colds. Wash hands, cover sneezes and coughs, and clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs.

Catherine Sweeney was StateImpact Oklahoma's health reporter from 2020 to 2023.
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