RSV cases continue to rise as Minnesota health officials confirm virus-related deaths
State health officials have confirmed one RSV-related death in Minnesota this season.
The Minnesota Department of Health has not shared any other details about the person who died, but medical professionals say the virus is something to watch out for this holiday season, particularly among children.
Dr. Liz Placzek, a physician at Children’s Minnesota, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that she has seen about 20 children with RSV come through her clinic this week alone.
“The children look really sick, really miserable,” Placzek said.
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RSV, which stands for respiratory syncytial virus, attacks the lungs and airways. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough and congestion, and more patients are now becoming seriously ill.
MDH data shows a sharp increase in RSV hospitalizations in Minnesota over the past few weeks, with children ages 4 and younger hospitalized at the highest rate.
“It is the number one cause of hospitalization in children under 1 year of age and especially in children under 3 months of age,” Placzek said.
The start of this year’s surge is right between Thanksgiving and Christmas, meaning the situation could get even worse right before holiday gatherings.
“It’s not the best time, but we have things that are under our control,” Placzek said.
This year, for the first time, an RSV vaccine is available to pregnant women who are between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant. There is also a monoclonal antibody injection for babies, which can be administered from the first week of life; these, however, have been rare.
Sanofi, the pharmaceutical company that makes the monoclonal injection, acknowledged in a statement that demand “has been greater than anticipated.”
MDH officials say about 5,000 doses of the RSV vaccine have been administered to Minnesota children so far. Because that vaccine is more difficult to obtain, MDH recommends that pregnant mothers receive the other vaccine, which is more available.