Respiratory virus uptick in kids; 'Children can struggle greatly'

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin is seeing an uptick in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases in young children. Doctors said they are seeing more cases of young children struggling to breathe and landing in the hospital for viruses like RSV.

A FOX6 News employee shared these images of her child to help spread awareness of a surge in cases.


"RSV is very disruptive to a family lifestyle," said Dr. Michael Meyer, the Medical Director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's Wisconsin. "The number of positive tests more than doubled from last week, and then the number of hospitalizations also increased from last week."

Date # of patients hospitalized at Children's with RSV # of positive tests across Children's
Week 9/13 average 2 4
Week 9/20 average 5 6
Week 9/27 average 5 12
Week 10/4 average 12 18

The doctor said the virus is making its rounds in Wisconsin sooner than expected.

"As we've gone back to daily life with every other infection precaution related to COVID, we're starting to see a surge," Meyer said.

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The doctor said most RSV cases are mild to moderate, but some require hospitalization due to high mucus production.

"Children can struggle greatly, especially our younger babies because they breathe through their nose," Meyer said. "If your nose is full of boogers, even the smaller children can't figure out how to use their mouth to breathe."

Dr. Meyer said the best precaution is teaching children about proper hand hygiene.


"It's amazing as kids learn these things, they'll look at you and say, ‘I need to go wash my hands now’ or 'Where is the hand sanitizer?" Meyer said.

There is no vaccine for RSV, but there is one for the flu – and the doctor advises kids to get a flu shot.

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Meyer said it could take up to five days for children to recover from RSV. Children could have a lingering cough for weeks or months after getting the virus. Children can get RSV more than once, which is why teaching proper hand hygiene to those older kids is so important.

Here are some CDC guidelines that doctors recommend you follow:

  • Doctors recommend that your child get an flu vaccine every year in the fall, starting when he or she is 6 months old.
  • Some children 6 months through 8 years of age may need 2 doses for best protection.
  • Children 6 months through 8 years getting a flu vaccine for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of flu vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine. The first dose should be given as soon as vaccine becomes available.