According to a recent study, the rate of hospital admissions for RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) infection in children is significantly higher than for children with the Omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2 or influenza.
RSV is a common respiratory illness, especially in children, affecting the lungs and airways. A mild infection causes cold-like symptoms, while a severe infection can lead to pneumonia, bronchiolitis, or difficulty breathing.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm conducted a retrospective study of 2,596 children hospitalized with Omicron, influenza A/B, or RSV. They found that the hospitalization rate for children with RSV was the highest (81.7%), compared to 31.5% for Omicron and 27.7% for influenza.
The study revealed that infants up to one year of age were eleven times more likely to be hospitalized for RSV than for Omicron. Children aged 2 to 4 years (3.96) and 5 to 17 years (5.22) also had a higher likelihood of hospitalization for RSV compared to Omicron. The results were published in Jama Pediatrics.
„The fact that RSV can be dangerous for both infants and young children is known, but the significant differences in hospitalization rates observed for RSV compared to SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Influenza A/B in all age groups were surprising,“ said Dr. Pontus Hedberg, lead author of the study.
The rates of admission to the intensive care unit and 30-day mortality were low for all three infections. The intensive care admission rate was highest for RSV (2.9%), compared to 0.9% for influenza and 0.7% for Omicron. Two individuals died from Omicron, while one death was attributed to RSV.
However, the study has some limitations. Due to its retrospective nature, there is a possibility that reported respiratory support may not be comprehensive. It is also possible that patients with mild illness were overlooked as they may not have undergone testing.
According to the CDC, RSV causes an estimated 58,000-80,000 hospitalizations and 100-300 deaths in children under 5 years of age each year.
An RSV infection in children can be prevented by administering antibodies to toddlers or by vaccinating mothers during pregnancy.
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of a monoclonal antibody against RSV called Beyfortus (Nirsevimab). The vaccine is intended for all infants under 8 months born during or entering the RSV season.