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May 29, 2024

Wisconsin sees uptick in RSV cases and deaths; health officials urge vaccination

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Jan 15, 2024

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases have been on the rise in Wisconsin over the past few months, resulting in increased hospitalizations and even deaths among young children. As experts warn that RSV may peak soon, state health officials are strongly encouraging vaccination among pregnant women to help protect vulnerable newborns.

Recent RSV-related deaths prompt health warnings

At least three deaths among children under age two have been linked to RSV in Wisconsin since September 2023. The virus can cause severe breathing issues in infants and lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) issued an advisory on January 10, 2023 urging pregnant women to get vaccinated against RSV.

“We are very concerned by the early rise in RSV cases,” said DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake. “We want to do everything we can to protect our youngest Wisconsinites.”

Wisconsin has seen over 1,400 RSV-related hospitalizations so far this RSV season, which typically runs from September through April. Cases have been rising steadily in recent weeks and months.

Maternal vaccination protects vulnerable newborns

In June 2022, the FDA approved the first RSV vaccine for adults over 60 and pregnant women. Maternal vaccination helps transfer RSV antibodies to the fetus, providing short-term protection once the baby is born.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend the vaccine for all pregnant women. It is considered very safe and does not use a live virus.

Clinical trials found the vaccine was 82% effective at preventing severe RSV disease over the first 90 days of life. It also showed safety and efficacy similar to other recommended vaccines for pregnant women like whooping cough and flu.

Southern Wisconsin sees highest RSV rates

RSV hospitalization rates have been highest in Wisconsin’s southern region, which includes heavily populated areas like Madison and Milwaukee. The southcentral and southeastern regions also have elevated activity.

As of January 11, 2023, Wisconsin has seen:

  • 1,418 RSV-related hospitalizations statewide
  • 273 hospitalizations in the southern region
  • 182 hospitalizations in the southcentral region

Hospital capacity is becoming strained with the influx of RSV patients on top of high flu activity and lingering COVID-19 cases.

What to expect in coming weeks

Health experts say Wisconsin has likely not yet hit peak RSV activity this season. Cases often ramp up through January and February before tapering off in the spring.

With RSV, flu, COVID-19, and other winter viruses circulating, preventing illness through vaccination is more important than ever. DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake said in a statement:

“Immunization is the best way expectant people can protect themselves and their babies from severe respiratory illness.”

In addition to maternal RSV vaccination, health officials emphasize staying up to date on COVID-19 and flu shots. They also advise handwashing, masks, and avoiding contact with symptomatic people.

Wisconsin will likely continue issuing health advisories related to RSV in coming weeks if cases keep rising. Officials hope increased vaccination among pregnant women and older adults will help curb hospitalizations and deaths.

Table 1: RSV Vaccines Available

Vaccine Manufacturer Age Group Key Details
Nuvaxovid RSVpreF Novavax Pregnant women – Approved June 2022
– 2-dose series
– Shown safe + effective
Convivio RSVpreF GSK Adults 60+ – Approved May 2022
– Single dose
– 83-95% effective

The maternal RSV vaccine is now broadly recommended for all pregnant women regardless of health history. The older adult RSV vaccine was 82-95% effective at preventing lower respiratory tract illness from RSV.

Both new protein-based vaccines are considered very safe options to prevent severe RSV disease. Health officials emphasize vaccination to protect vulnerable groups and curb strain on hospitals.

Conclusion: RSV expected to remain high across Wisconsin

With RSV activity still rising in many parts of Wisconsin, health officials expect elevated hospitalizations and deaths for at least the next 6-8 weeks. Maternal vaccination is considered the best way to shield newborns and infants.

Experts say Wisconsin has not yet hit peak RSV season, which typically extends through February. Southern and southcentral Wisconsin are currently seeing the highest rates of infection.

Moving forward, state health agencies will likely continue monitoring RSV while urging vaccination among pregnant women and older adults. More advisories related to rising wintertime respiratory viruses are expected in coming weeks.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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