Better Protection for Babies Against RSV

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Better Protection for Babies Against RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, is a common and highly infectious respiratory virus that generally causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people will recover in a couple of weeks, but for some, RSV can be very serious. Infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe RSV and need hospitalization.

While anyone can get the RSV infection, it is most common in children under 2 years old, and it’s the leading cause of lower respiratory infections and pneumonia in those under 12 months old. Most children will have RSV by the time they are 2 years old, and reinfection is common and may recur throughout life.

RSV is traditionally more common in winter and early spring, with the RSV season running from November through March. Outbreaks generally occur annually in communities, classrooms, and childcare centers.

Practical Protection for your Baby

RSV is highly contagious, and it can spread through the droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live for hours on surfaces such as counters or doorknobs and then passed on through touching your nose, eyes, or mouth with unwashed hands.

There are practical ways to help prevent your baby from contracting RSV which include:

  • Thorough hand washing using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Hand sanitizing
  • Disinfecting hard surfaces such as toys, countertops, and doorknobs
  • Keeping infants under 10 weeks of age away from crowds or public events as much as possible during RSV season

But the most effective way to prevent RSV, or to reduce the risk of serious complications is through giving antibody products to infants and young children.

RSV Antibodies

RSV antibodies can help protect babies and young children from severe illness from an RSV infection. They provide a layer of defense that helps fight RSV infections and protect children from getting very sick.

The CDC recommends:

  1. Getting an RSV immunization if you are 32-36 weeks pregnant during RSV season. This vaccine is recommended during September through January for most of the country.
  2. Getting an RSV antibody immunization for your baby if they are younger than 8 months and born during, or entering, their first RSV season. In rare cases, a healthcare provider may determine an RSV immunization is needed for an infant even though the mother received an RSV vaccine.

The CDC also recommends that the RSV immunization be given to children between the ages of 8 and 19 months entering their second RSV season who are in at least one of these following groups:

  • Children who have chronic lung disease from being born prematurely
  • Children who are severely immunocompromised
  • Children with cystic fibrosis who have severe disease
  • American Indian and Alaska Native children

Vaccines are also available to protect older adults from severe RSV.

RSV Antibody Products

There are currently two RSV antibody products that can help prevent severe RSV disease in infants and young children: Nirsevimab (Beyfortus), and Palivizumab (Synagis).

Nirsevimab (Beyfortus) is recommended for:

  • Infants younger than 8 months of age who were born during RSV season or are entering their first RSV season. Generally, most infants younger than 8 months do not need nirsevimab if they were born 14 or more days after their mother had received the RSV vaccine.
  • Children aged 8 through 19 months who are at increased risk for severe RSV disease and are entering their second RSV season (September through January).

For most babies, either the maternal RSV vaccine or the preventive antibody (Beyfortus) is recommended to prevent RSV disease, but they don’t need to have both.

RSV is Serious

While most RSV infections go away on their own after a week or so, it can cause serious illness in some. RSV can cause more severe and complicated infections including:

  • Bronchiolitis— inflammation of the small airways in the lung
  • Pneumonia— infection of the lungs

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under 1 year.

The CDC reports that there are 100-300 deaths per year, and up to 80,000 hospitalizations of children with RSV under the age of 5, in the U.S.

“RSV is one of the largest causes of hospitalization and severe respiratory disease in newborns. About 1-3% of all children under 12 years old are hospitalized each year due to RSV,” said John Putman, M.D., pediatrician at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health. “RSV is highly contagious and nearly every child will have been infected by the time they are 2 years old. The new RSV immunization has shown to decrease the chances of a severe infection by 74.5%! Getting the Beyfortus medication is very important because if a child is sick enough to require hospitalization, there are no specific treatments other than time and supportive care.”

Schedule your Beyfortus Immunization

To protect your infant from RSV, schedule Beyfortus immunization with your OU Health physician today.