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The number of small children and infants visiting emergency rooms in New York City due to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is now higher that the number of such visits during the coronavirus pandemic, hospital officials said this weekend.

Record numbers of children under the age of five are being hospitalized, according to a report Friday by the New York Daily News.

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“The number of people getting sick, and needing medical care, particularly in young children, those under the age of five, has increased dramatically over the past month,” Dr. Jay Varma, director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response, told the Daily News. “And if you look at just the visits to emergency departments alone, which is a pretty good proxy for how sick people are in the community, it’s already exceeded the rate of visits during the Omicron peak.”

Most people who contract RSV suffer relatively mild symptoms similar to those of the common cold, recovering in a week or two, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The government health agency said its surveillance has shown an increase in RSV detections and RSV-associated emergency department visits and hospitalizations in multiple US regions, with some regions nearing seasonal peak levels at just the start of November.

But the virus can be serious — and sometimes deadly — for very young children and the elderly.

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than one year of age in the United States.

The rise in RSV cases comes at a time that people are also facing the early arrival of winter influenza (flu) and another round of COVID-19, what doctors are dubbing a “triplepidemic”.

People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include:
Runny nose
Decrease in appetite
Coughing
Sneezing
Fever
Wheezing

The symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.