UPDATE: Doctors warn of rising RSV cases on the High Plains

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Center for Disease Control warns that RSV cases are on the rise in the Panhandle. Texas Tech officials said not only is the spike in RSV cases unusual, but the timing is cause for concern because RSV typically comes around in October and runs through April. But since May, they’ve seen four to five cases a week in the area.

RSV is a virus that can cause different respiratory infections. It effects all age groups, but it can be potentially serious or deadly for infants and older adults. Doctors say treating RSV can be frustrating because it can be hard to detect. Dr. Anders Leverton, Pediatrician at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said sometimes, the only way to confirm infection is a change in breathing.

“The one thing that sets RSV apart from other viruses sometimes, especially in children under two years of age, it can give them a lot of breathing issues, such as a hard time breathing, the baby may look like it just ran a marathon, but they haven’t been active at all,” he said. “Retractions, just really, really working to breathe.”

Dr. Leverton said if the virus is left untreated, it can inhibit oxygen flow throughout the body, which could lead to organ damage. It could also develop into secondary infection like pneumonia or bronchitis.

Another unusual aspect with the spike, Dr. Leverton noted, is the coinciding with the timing of mask mandates being lifted. Over the winter, Texas Tech saw zero cases of RSV, now, it appears the season for it, is early.

UPDATE:

Chief of the Department of Pediatrics at Norwest Texas Healthcare System Dr. Raphael Mattamal also offered his perspective on the spike of the virus in the area.

“Yes, this is absolutely abnormal, especially with the RSV infections.” said Dr. Mattamal, “In fact, I have never seen RSV admissions in the hospital in June and July since I’ve moved to Amarillo.”

Dr. Mattamal went on to say that during much of the COVID-19 winter, even though patients were tested for both RSV and COVID-19, the hospital was not seeing RSV cases.

“From an epidemiologic standpoint, we have been seeing some viral infections still outside of COVID-19, but a few infections have seem to have been substantially reduced in number or even no recorded cases at all this winter.” said Dr. Mattamal, “I’ll break down what we are seeing with expanded respiratory panel testing.”

The case breakdown he gave, as follows:

  • Still seeing cases this year at the Children’s Hospital: Adenovirus, Rhinovirus, Enterovirus, RSV (not seen initially but now showing up), Parainfluenza (primarily Type 2 and 3), non-COVID-19 Coronavirus (primarily NL63 and OC43 strains).
  • Almost no cases this year at the Children’s Hospital: Influenza A & B (flu).
  • Not a single recorded case this year at the Children’s Hospital: Human Metapneumovirus (hMPV), all four bacterial species on the swab including Mycoplasma pneumoniae (atypical / “walking” pneumonia) and Bordetella pertussis (“whooping cough”).

Dr. Mattamal offered more resources for statistics and information regarding respiratory viruses here.

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