OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Cold and flu season is officially upon us and there are several ways to protect yourself this winter, including a new vaccine for another common, but potentially deadly respiratory virus.
“RSV like a lot of viruses spread through respiratory droplets,” said Dr. Hal Scofield with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. “It can also be transmitted by objects.”
Respiratory Syncytial Virus can, of course, be deadly for very young children.
“It’s the leading cause of pneumonia and hospitalization in six month, two year old children,” Scofield said.
Three percent of kids are hospitalized with RSV in their first year of life. In adults it can also cause mild cold-like symptoms for about a week or two. However, Dr. Scofield said it can be much worse than that.
“It’s under-diagnosed in adults, but it might be responsible for a few thousand deaths in adults,” Scofield said. “You know, 6000, 8000 deaths in adults every year in the United States.”
In addition, CDC stats show RSV being responsible for about 160,000 hospitalizations per year in adults age 65 and older. As the winter approaches, there’s ways to prevent it with a single vaccination approved for those age 60 and older and it’s shown effectiveness.
“In the study, it reduced documented RSV by about 80 percent,” Scofield said.
The virus becomes a bigger problem for those with underlying medical conditions and Scofield said there isn’t any anti-viral medication for it. He urges those who can take advantage of the new protection to do so.
“It prevents severe disease in infants,” he said. “So, it’s good.”
Scofield said being sanitary like washing hands and staying home when sick can also help prevent the spread of disease. He said there’s also a vaccine given to pregnant women that protects the newborn child and prevents infection in their first few months of life.