The rise in RSV raises questions about repeat cases: Can you or a child get it again?
As respiratory syncytial virusotherwise known as RSV, continues to spread across the United States, experts warn that it is possible for people to become infected with it more than once.
dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital this week, “A person can get RSV more than once in their lifetime.”
A second infection is unlikely to occur immediately after a recent episode. However, it can infect someone more than once in the same season, esp immunocompromised children and older adults, Glatt said.
“Weekly rates of RSV hospitalizations are currently far higher than they have been in the previous four seasons, surpassing peak weekly rates across all pediatric age groups since pediatric data began to be collected in RSV-NET in October 2018,” a spokesperson Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Fox News Digital.
RSV-NET reports surveillance of recent laboratory-confirmed and RSV-related hospitalizations in children younger than 18 years, plus adults.
“The timing of this is also unusual, as we don’t typically see hospitalization rates this high in October and November,” a CDC spokesperson also said.
“Rates are higher now than they were even compared to the fall of 2021, when there was an unusual pattern of RSV circulation.”
“Certainly RSV is normally seen in the winter, so weather plays a key role in its endemicity,” added Glatt, also a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“But if RSV is present wherever you are, you can get it in any weather — even though it’s actually a winter disease,” he said.
Why are we seeing a wave of cases?
“Prior to 2020, seasonal patterns for RSV in the United States were very consistent,” the CDC noted on its website.
“However, the circulation patterns for RSV and other common respiratory viruses have been disrupted from the start Covid-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020,” the agency added.
“CDC is now publishing weekly hospitalization rates for laboratory-confirmed RSV hospitalizations, as determined through the RSV-NET sentinel surveillance system,” a CDC spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
“Hospitalization rates with RSV are highest in children [who are less than] six months of age, but hospitalization rates also increased in older children compared to previous seasons.”
Many people focus on those who are at high risk for RSV, such as premature babies, young children with heart defects at birth and chronic lung disease—or those who have depressed immune system.
“About two-thirds of children who are admitted with RSV are actually healthy, normal children.”
But those patients account for only a third of hospitalizations, said Dr. James H. Conway, an infectious disease pediatrician and medical director of the immunization program at UW Health Kids in Madison, Wisconsin.
“About two-thirds of children who are admitted with RSV are actually healthy, normal children,” said Conway, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Hospitalization rates among adults with RSV have also increased, “with the highest rates of hospitalization in adults over age 65,” a CDC spokesman said.
The data should be interpreted with caution, however, as the last two weeks of RSV-NET data may be delayed in reporting.
Why are some people infected more than once?
“We’ve known for decades that for most respiratory viruses — whether it’s rhinoviruses or parainfluenza viruses or RSV — immunity to naturally occurring respiratory viruses is just not good,” Conway noted.
“That’s why people can get these infections again and again.”
As with the flu, people can become infected with different strains of RSV.
“Like the flu, there are multiple strains of RSV, so there is RSV-A [strain] and then there is RSV-B [strain] — like having the flu [type] And the flu [type] B,” Conway told Fox News Digital.
“People can get it more than once because even if they have one type, the cross-protective immunity is only partial.”
It is often difficult to prevent infection once the virus has already invaded the body.
Our immunity involves multiple components, including different types of antibodies — circulating antibodies that patrol our bloodstream for foreign invaders and secretory antibodies, Conway said.
“There are parts of your immune system that are actually responsible for grabbing [the virus and] saying: ‘This is important’ [to] present to your immune system,’ and ‘This is something we actually have to deal with.'”
However, it is often difficult to prevent infection once the virus has already invaded the body, he added.
The next time a person is exposed to a virus, the immune system remembers it and “lines up” its arsenal of T cells to neutralize the virus.
“But as a temporary measure, [the immune system] it takes your B cells and turns on a bunch of antibodies that will circulate, latching onto these viruses to get them out of this circulation [perhaps] before they cause disease,” Conway noted.
Vaccines possible for the elderly
Conway noted that by next fall we may have the first RSV vaccines for seniors in the US
A number of companies, including Pfizer, GSK and Janssen, have RSV vaccines in late-stage human trials for adults and the elderly, according to multiple reports.
“Baby protection in the form of monoclonal antibody injections is already available for high-risk premature infants, and long-acting versions for all children are also on the horizon,” Conway added.