Local health officials monitor rise in RSV cases among children

RSV cases are on the rise across the country and in the Tampa Bay area, according to the CDC. Several local health departments Tuesday warned they're monitoring a higher number of pediatric emergency room visits caused by RSV compared to previous years. 

According to the CDC, the Tampa Bay area has seen a significant rise in RSV cases over the past several months. 

"We hope it doesn’t get too much worse, but I think we’re bracing for the reality that it may get worse before it gets better," said Dr. Allison Messina, chief of the infectious disease division at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

RELATED: Tampa Bay area sees significant rise in RSV cases, CDC says

RSV cases have been rising at hospitals since May, which is unusual, according to Messina. She said it's usually a virus seen in the winter starting in November and slowing down around March. 

Messina said RSV and flu seasons have been more unpredictable since the pandemic. 

"We do know that in other parts of the country they’re really getting hit hard, and we’re bracing for that should it occur," Messina said.

At Johns Hopkins All Children's, seven patients have RSV as of Tuesday, which is the lowest number the hospital has seen in a while. However, Messina said they’re seeing other respiratory infections too and the flu.

READ: US flu hospitalization rate highest its been since 2009 swine flu pandemic, experts say

"These things make our kids sick too, and we’re seeing high levels of those as well. We’re bracing for a very busy winter," Messina said. 

Right now, about 73% of their beds are in use. Around 75% is what Messina calls the caution area.

"We are not, fortunately, at the capacity that we would be if we had to start opening tents or things like that, but we do have contingency plans for that," she said.

While most recover fairly quickly from RSV, some, especially young children and the elderly, may need to go to the hospital, she said. If your child is struggling to breathe, take them to the emergency room.

"If they have cold-like symptoms, cough, sneezing, runny nose but are also struggling to breath, look like they are getting short of breath," Messina said. "If they are an infant not able to get through a feeding without kind of stopping to catch their breath. If they're a little older and they can't speak in full sentences, those are things that we would really, really want parents to watch out for. If they look like they’re struggling then they need to come to the ER immediately."

MORE: What is RSV? US children's hospitals see rising number of cases

Messina said she wants people to know that anyone can get RSV, but in most, other than young children and the elderly, it shows itself as a bad cold. In younger children and the elderly, it can be very difficult for some to breathe.

According to the Florida Department of Health, RSV isn’t an illness that hospitals have to report cases to the state. However, FDOH uses laboratory data from facilities participating in electronic laboratory reporting, hospital admissions and emergency room visits to keep an eye on RSV numbers throughout the state.

They’ve recorded a rise in RSV emergency room visits and hospitalizations this year compared to previous years. An RSV vaccine is currently in the trial phase. Messina said she’s hopeful it’ll be ready to use by as soon as next year.

Other area hospitals did not immediately provide RSV data to FOX 13.