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RSV infections turning up early in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — A common respiratory virus called RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) has been turning up months earlier than expected in Utah. It normally affects young children, but it can cause serious illness in adults with compromised immune systems as well.

RSV infections hit earlier than normal in Utah

Dr. Per Gesteland with Primary Children’s Hospital says they normally see RSV infections in the fall and winter months, but last year there were hardly any, even as the COVID-19 pandemic was raging.

“We didn’t see, essentially, any RSV last year, which was common across the country” he told an online news conference. “In the last several weeks, we’ve started to notice our counts of lab-confirmed cases of RSV start to tick up.”

The early symptoms of RSV and COVID are similar, and Gesteland says children who show cold symptoms but then develop high or extended fevers or who have trouble breathing need to see the doctor. A lab test is the only certain way to distinguish between the two infections.

Smoke “isn’t helping” 

Gesteland was asked whether the smoke from Western wildfires that has filled the valleys of the Wasatch Front for a couple of weeks could make the problem worse, and he said it “certainly isn’t helping.”

RSV spreads through coughs and sneezes as well as from surfaces. Gesteland says it’s not aerosolized like the COVID virus, but it’s still readily transmissible. He says masks in schools could help prevent its spread, especially among children this fall.

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