by Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner
January 10, 2024
Cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are increasing in Wisconsin, and state health officials are urging pregnant women and people who are 60 or older to get a vaccine to protect against the illness.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reported Wednesday that 1,401 people in the state have been hospitalized in the current RSV season. That includes 580 children under the age of 2.
According to DHS, the RSV vaccine, called Abrysvo, can be given between 32 weeks and 36 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, and provides protection for infants up to the age of 6 months.
“That provides the baby protection at a time when they could be vulnerable to serious illness,” said Tom Haupt, respiratory disease epidemiologist for DHS.
Federal health officials approved the vaccine in 2023, and DHS emphasized that it is safe and effective.
An alternative protection from RSV for children younger than 8 months is a monoclonal antibody shot, called nirsevimab, according to DHS. The monoclonal antibody shot is in short supply, however. “This is why it is especially important for people who are pregnant to get the RSV vaccine, which is readily available, to ensure their infants are protected,” DHS says in a press release.
Two kinds of RSV vaccines are available for adults 60 or older: Arexvy and Abrysvo.
In its press release, DHS also reiterates the importance of updated COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccines for everyone 6 months or older. “This is especially important for people who are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill,” the release says. “This includes those who are pregnant, age 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions.”
To find where flu and COVID-19 vaccines are available, people can visit vaccines.gov or call 211 or 877-947-2211.
In addition to recommending vaccines, DHS said there are other steps people can take to reduce the spread of germs and viruses:
Wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds.Avoid touching nose, eyes and mouth.Stay home and away from other people feeling sick.Stay away from others who are sick or have symptoms of respiratory illness.Cover nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.Wear a high-quality mask around others to prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illness.
DHS also publishes a weekly respiratory illness report. The most recent report can be found here.
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