What is the G20?

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stephen Hall, Writer, Formative Content

  • RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common respiratory virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract.
  • Case numbers are rising in the US and Canada, and scientists say it’s because children were shielded from common infections during COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • There’s currently no approved vaccine, but Pfizer says a new one has recently been found to be 81% effective in an infant’s first 90 days of life.

Is a “tripledemic” on the way this winter? Some scientists think so, as an early uptick in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) virus cases in the US and Canada emerges alongside transmission of COVID-19 and flu.

The rising numbers are concerning, as 1 in 56 otherwise healthy babies are hospitalized with RSV during their first year of life, a study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine says. The reason for the increase in RSV cases is that many children were shielded from common infections during lockdowns, ABC News reports.

What is RSV?

RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tractbabies under two and older adults with pre-existing conditions

Infographic showing how to protect a child from RSV

RSV case numbers are rising in the US and Canada – here’s how the CDC says you can protect your child. Image: CDC

Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can cause serious health complications, particularly for infants and older adults. In the United States and other areas with similar climates, RSV circulation usually starts during autumn and peaks in the winter, according to the CDC, but this year case numbers have peaked early.

“There isn’t any doubt that there are going to be three active respiratory viruses this season,” William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in the United States, told health website Prevention.com. “COVID is out there, RSV started unseasonably early and is giving paediatric hospitals a hard time in the sense that there are many children that need care.”

Each year in the United States, RSV leads to approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits among children younger than five and 58,000-80,000 hospitalizations among children younger than five, according to the CDC.

The youngest infants have a high risk of coming into the hospital in what we call their first RSV season,” Dr Emily Martin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, told The New York Times. “If a child is born in the summer and they get exposed for the first time in the winter, they are at risk of having more serious disease. But many infants didn’t experience the first RSV season on the regular schedule that they would have, particularly if they were born in or after 2020.”

Is there a vaccine?

The rising RSV case numbers are particularly concerning for health officials, as there’s currently no approved vaccine for the virus. That could be set to change, however.

Pfizer recently said that its new vaccine is just under 82% effective in an infant’s first 90 days of life and 69% effective through the first six months of life. The company plans to submit a regulatory application by the end of 2022.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about access to vaccines?

In 2000, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance was launched at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, with an initial pledge of $750 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The aim of Gavi is to make vaccines more accessible and affordable for all – wherever people live in the world.

Along with saving an estimated 10 million lives worldwide in less than 20 years,through the vaccination of nearly 700 million children, – Gavi has most recently ensured a life-saving vaccine for Ebola.

At Davos 2016, we announced Gavi’s partnership with Merck to make the life-saving Ebola vaccine a reality.

The Ebola vaccine is the result of years of energy and commitment from Merck; the generosity of Canada’s federal government; leadership by WHO; strong support to test the vaccine from both NGOs such as MSF and the countries affected by the West Africa outbreak; and the rapid response and dedication of the DRC Minister of Health. Without these efforts, it is unlikely this vaccine would be available for several years, if at all.

Read more about the Vaccine Alliance, and how you can contribute to the improvement of access to vaccines globally – in our Impact Story.

While RSV infections are most common among children, the virus can also be a danger for certain adults. An estimated 60,000-120,000 older adults in the United States are hospitalized from RSV each year, and 6,000-10,000 die, the CDC says.

It says the adults at highest risk include:

Those aged 65 or older.

Those with chronic heart or lung disease.

Those with weakened immune systems.

How can people protect themselves?

There are several steps you can take to help prevent the spread of RSV, the CDC says. If you or your child have cold-like symptoms, you should:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact with others, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices.

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