U.S. health officials have expressed concern over a simultaneous rise in Delta infections and cases of respiratory syncytial virus, a highly contagious seasonal flulike illness that is more likely to affect children and older adults.
Cases of R.S.V. have risen gradually since early June, with an even greater spike in the past month, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness, which can cause symptoms that include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and fever, normally begins to spread in the fall, making this summer spike unusual.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Dr. Heather Haq, a pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, described an increase in both coronavirus and R.S.V. hospitalizations.
“After many months of zero or few pediatric Covid cases, we are seeing infants, children and teens with Covid pouring back into the hospital, more and more each day,” she wrote, adding that patients have ranged in age from 2 weeks to 17 years old, including some with Covid pneumonias.
“We are on the front end of a huge Covid surge,” wrote Dr. Haq, who could not be reached for comment on Sunday. “We are now having winter-level patient volumes of acutely ill infants/toddlers with R.S.V., and I worry that we will run out of beds and staff to handle the surge upon surge.”
Coronavirus Pandemic and U.S. Life Expectancy
R.S.V. cases in Texas began to increase in early June and appeared to peak in mid-July, according to data from the state’s health department.
There has been a similar spike in Florida, where infections “were above those seen at this time in past years,” according to a surveillance report.
“You start with the pandemic for the last 18 months, and then R.S.V. for the last couple of months,” Dr. Trey Dunbar, the hospital’s president, told the network. “It just seems to be one thing after another that’s keeping our teams very busy.”
In Oklahoma, which has also had a spike in R.S.V. cases, beds are becoming scarce at hospitals.
Dr. Cameron Mantor, the chief medical officer for Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at OU Health, told The Oklahoman that in the past two months R.S.V. cases in the state had been “exponentially off the charts.”
“R.S.V. is a real issue right now,” he told the newspaper. “What is going to happen if we do have a surge in pediatric Covid cases?”
The rise comes as new coronavirus infections have risen 148 percent in the United States in the past two weeks and hospitalizations have increased 73 percent, according to New York Times data. The surge of coronavirus infections has been largely attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant and to low vaccination rates in some states.
“I worry as kids go back to school with the Delta circulating, we will see huge school outbreaks that we didn’t see in prior waves, disproportionately affecting kids,” Dr. Haq wrote. “I’ve cared for hospitalized pediatric patients with Covid throughout the pandemic, but this time with unvaccinated, susceptible children plus Delta variant, we will see more pediatric Covid admissions.”
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating Covid vaccines and barred local officials from requiring face masks.
Florida could face similar challenges with viruses when the school year begins. Gov. Ron DeSantis has spoken out against new masking recommendations from the C.D.C., with his office saying in a statement last week that “parents know what’s best for their children.”
Surges in R.S.V. infections have also been reported in places like New Zealand, where it is currently winter. Experts there say that children may be more vulnerable than usual to seasonal viruses and infections because they were underexposed to germs during lockdowns early in the pandemic.