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Portland doctor seeing increase in RSV cases

Dr. Patrick Lew with Providence St. Vincent said Oregon can expect a very robust cold and flu season this year, with increasing rates of RSV.

PORTLAND, Ore. — This year's flu and cold season is forecasted to be unusually busy, due in part to Respiratory Syncytial Virus, which has seen an increased number of cases nationwide in recent weeks.

Dr. Patrick Lew with Providence St. Vincent said he expects cases of RSV to continue to rise as the weather gets colder. The Oregon Health Authority said case rates are under 3% at the moment. 

"This year we've seen it start as early as August, and we've seen an uptick to the admissions to the hospital," Lew said. 

The increase in RSV cases comes from people not wearing masks and social distancing the way they did during the last two years for COVID, he said. People are once again being exposed to germs after so much time isolated at home.

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"The increasing amount of hospitalizations we have seen at St. Vincent's over the past couple of days, I think that the rate is going to continue to increase and possibly get to higher levels similar to what we've seen in the past, or maybe even more," Lew said. 

RSV typically causes mild cold-like symptoms, but it can impact young children more severely, and Lew said the upcoming wave could be particularly bad for children because of the timing with the pandemic.

"They haven't been previously infected," he said. "They're reacting to it like it's the very first time they're body has seen it. For some of the children born during the pandemic, it is the very first time they've seen this."

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The symptoms include a runny and stuffy nose, cough, fever, wheezing and a decrease in appetite. 

"In young infants who can only breath through their nose, they get into a lot of trouble because of that stuffiness," Dr. Lew said. "They are using all this energy to try and breathe through their nose."

There is no vaccine for RSV and according to Lew, the flu shot doesn't help against it, but he still recommends it for children over the age of six months. 

"Washing you hands really well, covering your sneeze, covering your cough, using a tissue, these are all good things to be teaching your children," Lew said. 


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