TRAVERSE CITY — A shortage in Beyfortus, a new RSV medication designed to prevent infants from contracting severe RSV, has local health departments warning parents to be extra mindful this winter.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) will create mild cold-like symptoms in most adults. However, RSV can cause severe upper and lower respiratory infections in babies and older populations.
Every year in the United States RSV causes millions of visits to the hospital with more than 80,000 children hospitalized and thousands dying.
The Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, Benzie-Leelanau Health Department and the District Health Department 4, Josh Meyerson, said RSV is the most common reason for an infant to visit the hospital.
“Starting around age 60 or 70 the more at risk you are, and if you have underlying risk factors like chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease [or] people who are immunocompromised,” Meyerson explained. “Then on the other spectrum which is probably what most people think of when they think RSV are the babies.”
Babies under six months, especially those who were born prematurely or with lung or heart disease are at an increased risk of severe RSV. Also, with cold and flu season just getting started, Kalkaska Public Schools Superintendent, Rick Heitmeyer, said they’re continuing to encourage healthy habits developed during the pandemic.
“We do thorough cleaning on a regular basis. We do make sure that everyone is washing their hands and we have hand sanitizer stations, but I think the biggest thing and one that we actually struggle with the most is reminding to keep kids home if they’re sick,” Heitmeyer admitted.
Meyerson said despite the shortage, parents don’t need to panic quite yet.
Babies who are exclusively breastfed in their first six months have less risk of contracting RSV. Plus, there are still some medications and vaccines available, but they suggest you reach out to your doctor to learn more.
“Families who may have a real high-risk person living in their household, they can look at maybe having increased awareness about those things and the hygiene [efforts] they can take to reduce the risk to their family,” Meyerson said.