It’s November and we’re in the thick of cold and flu season. We have been battling COVID over the last 2+ years, and we are now seeing a rise of viruses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These viruses had seemingly milder seasons during previous COVID surges due to a number of behavioral changes, like mask wearing, social distancing, and more care to hand washing and sanitizing. Now with vaccines, communities are masking less and children are back in schools and daycares more regularly, which has given an opportunity for illnesses that were center stage during past winter months to surge.
You can avoid RSV in many of the same ways you would prevent catching the flu or COVID:
Test. Tests are often provided after clinical evaluation and deemed appropriate. This is a good opportunity to make use of Carbon Health’s multiplex cepheid machines, where available, to differentiate from COVID and flu, and confirm RSV. This testing is most important for high-risk patients:
The recommendation for managing mild cases of RSV is supportive care, with over-the-counter cough remedies and medications like Children’s Tylenol or Children’s Motrin, as well as humidifiers, hydration, and rest.
RSV cases in patients who might be immunocompromised or experiencing more severe symptoms, like shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, should be seen in clinic or with their pediatrician. Some severe cases may need to be directed to the emergency room.
As referenced above, COVID threw-off seasonal RSV progression in 2020 due to so many families and people being isolated from each other. With that said, as families started getting back together and some schools started opening up last year (2021), RSV “interest” started coming back as indicated by Google users searching for RSV-related terms.
This year (2022) we’re seeing searches sky-rocket. To be sure, some of the large increase in searches is because many news outlets started reporting on cases of RSV increasing; but regardless, if search volume related to a clinical issue is up it is a good indication that the need or desire for testing is present.
Children that are emerging from an era of lockdown are now being exposed in ways their immune systems might not have been challenged with in the past. Because of this, we are seeing cases of RSV earlier and will also see a rise in cases from recent years.
To compare how RSV Google search interest compares to Influenza (the flu) and the common cold, we pulled the Google trends chart below to show the growing interest relative to each other.
The above chart shows that while flu and the common cold have been gradually rising through October into early November, RSV begins to shoot up at a steeper rate around October 20th, with gradual interest increases going into November. Stunningly, RSV is now on par with the flu and the common cold, in terms of search demand/interest among U.S. browsers.