RSV causes 1 in 50 deaths in children under 5: Study

The respiratory disease RSV causes 1 in 50 deaths in children under the age of 5, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, a new study says.

But RSV – formally known as a respiratory virus – is also a problem in high-income countries. In these countries, 1 in 56 otherwise healthy children are hospitalized with RSV in their first year of life, says the study, published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Researchers looked at the health records of 9,154 infants born between July 1, 2017 and July 31, 2020, who were treated in clinics across Europe. Previous studies have focused on children with pre-existing conditions, but this one looked at otherwise healthy children, researchers said.

“This is the lowest-risk child hospitalized for this, so the numbers are actually much higher than I think some people would have guessed,” said study co-author Louis Bont, MD, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital at University Medical Center in Utrecht in the Netherlands, according to CNN. He is also the chairman of the ReSViNET Foundation, which aims to reduce RSV infection worldwide.

The study said that more than 97% of RSV-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The study concluded that “mother vaccination and ineffective [immunization] could have a major impact on the RSV burden.”

In developed countries, children who contract RSV usually survive because they have access to ventilators and other medical equipment. Still, being treated for RSV can have long-term negative effects on a child’s health, Kristina Deeter, MD, chair of pediatrics at the University of Nevada, Reno, told CNN.

“Whether it’s just traumatic psychosocial issues, emotional issues after hospitalization, or even more vulnerable lungs — you can develop asthma later, for example, if you’ve had a very severe infection at a young age — it can permanently damage your lungs,” she said of the study. . “It’s still an important virus in our world and something we’re really focused on.”

The Lancet study was released days after the CDC warned public health officials that respiratory viruses, including RSV, are on the rise among children across the country.

Sources

Lancet Respiratory Medicine: “Burden of respiratory virus in healthy newborns in Europe: a prospective birth cohort study.”

CNN: “RSV responsible for 1 in 50 deaths in children under 5, study finds.

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