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RSV cases surpass 2021 total with weeks remaining in flu season

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The number of new cases of RSV declined last week to just 211, but that was enough to top last year’s total number of cases with several months remaining in the respiratory virus season. 

A total 1,224 cases of RSV, short for respiratory syncytial virus, have been reported in Washoe County since October, more than the 1,043 cases reported during the 2021-22 flu season. That season began in October and continued for 20 weeks into the new year. 

Despite a small drop in the number of new cases last week, Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick said it’s too early to presume we’ve hit the peak of this season.

“We are just at phenomenal levels of RSV that are occuring in our community already,” Dick said, adding that Washoe County’s rate of RSV is three times that of the state’s average.

“Immunity debt” is the term that’s being used to describe why RSV and flu infections are so much more common this year.

Dick said that traditionally young children are exposed to RSV during their first two years and the general population has more average rates of RSV infection. The immunity built during those early years through exposure means that cases aren’t usually very severe. 

“With what’s occurred through the COVID pandemic – we’ve had people staying at home, we’ve had people wearing masks, we’ve had some school and daycares shut down – we have that immunity debt because we haven’t had those exposures and maintained that immunity with RSV,” he said. 

In recent weeks the Nevada Hospital Association has reported that pediatric units at area hospitals are at or very near capacity. Dick said he is optimistic that some of these challenges will be reduced in the new year as Northern Nevada Sierra Medical Center ramps up operations of its pediatric in-patient care. 

Dick also urged people that unless their child has severe respiratory distress and trouble breathing they should take their child to a pediatrician or urgent care first, rather than going to an emergency room. 

COVID-19 still lurking

COVID-19 rates remain higher in the community, but the average daily cases dropped last week to 55. Dick said that decline will likely be short term as wastewater data for the community shows that an increase in COVID-19 cases is on its way. 

The FDA on Dec. 8 also approved the COVID-19 bivalent booster for children as young as 6 months old. The new vaccine takes the place of the older monovalent vaccine. 

Washoe County Health District will begin administering the newer COVID vaccine to children 6 months and older on Monday, Dec. 19. The county’s scheduling platform will also be updated to include the new vaccine. 

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Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.

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