RSV Is on the Rise in Michigan – Here’s How to Prevent the Spread

More infants in Michigan are getting sick with respiratory syncytial virus. Here's what parents need to know about RSV.

Monae Hawthorn just experienced something many parents in Michigan are battling, the surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, filling up hospitals with sick kids. It comes just as flu and COVID cases are also starting to rise.

The Detroit area mom thought her normally very happy 6-month-old caught a common cold at a birthday party they attended, but soon, the baby began to struggle to breathe. Hawthorn and her baby, along with her older child, spent 10 hours at a local hospital before being sent home. Hawthorn spent night after night not sleeping so she could keep a close eye on her baby’s breathing. She also lost 10 days of work and pay while her baby recovered.

What is RSV?

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild cold symptoms and lasts about a week or two. However, it can be serious – and it can be dangerous for infants and young children, especially those born prematurely, infants who are 6 months old or younger, and other groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no vaccine for RSV, and treatment usually includes over-the-counter fever reducers and drinking plenty of fluids, Henry Ford Health says. 


While symptoms of RSV can be similar to other viruses, here are some of the main signs to watch for that could point to RSV, according to the CDC. If you are concerned that your child may have RSV, talk to a healthcare provider right away.

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

In very young children, only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity or breathing. 

In many cases, RSV symptoms can be managed at home. However, parents should be on the alert for signs that it might be becoming an emergency. Take off a child’s shirt to monitor how hard they are breathing, looking between their ribs and at the muscles in their neck to gauge how hard they are working for air. 

Other emergency signs to watch for:

● Skin, lips or fingernails that turn gray or bluish in color

● Sudden decrease in alertness or activity level

● Sustained high fever (higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit for infants younger than 3 months or higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit for older children) not resolving with over-the-counter medications

● Not waking up to eat.

Preventing the spread

RSV is very contagious, the Cleveland Clinic notes, and those who have it are most contagious during the first two to four days of the virus.

Also keep in mind that RSV sticks around on surfaces longer than other viruses.

People who have RSV can continue to spread the virus between three to eight days, the CDC reports, although some people can continue to be contagious for even longer. It mainly is spread when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes, or through direct contact with someone who has it.

Unfortunately, RSV can survive on surfaces for many hours, according to the CDC. Proper hand-washing techniques and cleaning contaminated surfaces are recommended.

Hawthorn’s advice to other moms: Be mindful where you take your children right now and be willing to leave places where you see people coughing and sneezing. She also suggests wearing a mask if you can.

Doctors are also urging everyone to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

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  1. We are starting a maternal RSV vaccine trial at Wayne State University to protect newborns in the Detroit Metro area from this infection. How can we get the word out to identified study participants?


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