Health Professional News

Preparing for RSV: New prevention drug and 2023 forecast

Every fall, pediatricians begin to brace for seasonal viruses that will start making their way through younger populations, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). A new FDA-approved RSV preventative drug called Beyfortus (nirsevimab-alip) could be a game-changer in the fight against RSV during the upcoming fall and winter.

Refresher: RSV

In otherwise healthy adults, RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms and lasts one to two weeks. However, for infants and young children (and older adults) RSV can quickly become very serious and develop into pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 58,000 to 80,000 children under 5 years of age, most of them infants, are hospitalized each year nationwide due to RSV infection. Each year, an estimated 100 to 300 children younger than 5 years of age die due to RSV.

Prevent RSV with Beyfortus

Beyfortus is a new, one-time intramuscular injection of monoclonal antibodies with activity against RSV. It is approved for babies under 8 months old who are born during or entering their first RSV season. Toddlers up to 2 years old who are vulnerable to severe infections from respiratory illnesses will be able to get a second dose during their second RSV season. Beyfortus is expected to be available this fall.

Three independent clinical trials of Beyfortus proved it effectively prevents severe cases of RSV in infants. Even if a baby or toddler gets RSV, the treatment is demonstrating in trials a 70% reduction of a child needing to be seen by a physician for respiratory illness or hospitalization.

RSV cases in 2023-2024

Last year, children’s hospitals across the country were overwhelmed with an unprecedented early surge of patients with RSV. States and pediatric health leaders asked for emergency support as health care facilities set up tents with extra beds in parking lots to accommodate so many sick kids. In fact, the term “tripledemic” of flu, COVID, and RSV was repeatedly used to describe the swirl of viral illnesses that health professionals were treating in 2022-2023.

This year health experts are expecting the timing and severity of RSV, flu and COVID will be more manageable if people embrace new tools like Beyfortus and other vaccines that are known to effectively prevent the most serious cases of these viral diseases.

Recently, Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, discussed the RSV treatment on WCCO news.

Mai Songsawatwong