Chicago area hospitals report unseasonable jump in RSV cases

Chicago area hospitals are reporting an unseasonable jump in kids infected with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, giving parents another virus to worry about on top of COVID-19.

Most kids catch RSV by the age of 2, but what's unusual this year is how many local kids have it and when they're catching it.

"Our positivity rate now is 44-percent here, and we never see those kinds of numbers at this time of the year, and that's pretty consistent with what's going on throughout the area," said Dr. Michael Cappello, Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital - Park Ridge.

Dr. Cappello said Advocate Children's Hospital would normally see RSV peak in November and December, but the virus has surged early. 

He said as COVID restrictions loosen, the very young are out of their homes more and exposed to germs and viruses for maybe the first time.

For most children, RSV can seem like a common cold. 

Dr. Cappello said the worry is for babies, and to watch for infants struggling to breathe, refusing to eat or getting blue fingertips or lips.

Advocate Children's Hospital said hospitalization rates for RSV are approximately 15 to 16 times higher than for influenza for children under one year of age.


"The ones that are really at risk are those who have a history of prematurity, or chronic lung disease, were born with a heart condition, or immune compromised, they're at greatest risk, and the biggest risk is within the first year of life," said Dr. Cappello.

To protect your family from RSV, Dr. Cappello said to use the same tactics we all know well at this point:  wash your hands, clean surfaces that babies touch, avoid large gatherings as well as sick people. 

Cappello said Advocate Children's Hospital is preparing a longer season of treating RSV, plus the flu and other viruses.