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Amidst Tripledemic, the Burden of RSV Makes Itself Known

It’s been called the “tripledemic” – the flu, COVID-19 and RSV colliding in a dangerous viral storm. And now new data suggest that RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, may pose an even greater burden than some realized. 

Two national surveys, one of parents with children who had RSV and one of health care providers who regularly treat infants and young children with RSV, reveal that the disease’s burden extends beyond immediate symptoms. A new report from the Alliance for Patient Access and the National Coalition for Infant Health, “The Indirect Impact of RSV,” details the surveys’ findings. 

Shouldering the Burden 

RSV’s symptoms can be severe for many infants and young children.  

Babies and children may experience wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing and other symptoms, and the virus can also lead to further respiratory complications. Symptoms may be severe enough to require hospitalization. 

RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for infants under age one. Of the surveyed parents, 67% said their child was hospitalized for RSV. 

Families may also bear the brunt of RSV’s consequences, which often persist even after a child has recovered.  

The Financial Burden 

The cost of caring for a child with RSV, especially when they must be hospitalized, can be significant. More than two-thirds of parents said that RSV posed a financial burden or financial crisis for their family. 

And the financial burden of RSV doesn’t simply manifest as a bill. Parents’ time spent caring for their child may also come at a cost. They may have to take time off of work. Of the surveyed parents, 7% said that they were fired because of the demands of caring for their sick child. 

The Emotional Burden 

For many parents, watching their child struggle with RSV can take a serious emotional toll. More than two-thirds of parents felt guilty that they could not do more to prevent their child’s experience with RSV. Meanwhile, 68% also expressed that they experience impacted their mental health. 

Nearly half of providers shared that it can be difficult to decide when to send a baby or child to the emergency room. 

The Social Burden 

An infant or child’s experience with RSV can also place a heavy strain on families’ relationships. More than 40% of surveyed parents said that their other children were distressed watching their sibling struggle with RSV, and parents had to limit children’s time spent with others or look to extended family and friends for support. The experience may even negatively impact parents’ relationships with each other. 

Providing Support and Education 

Parents and providers agreed that more education is needed about RSV, and that if a prevention, like an immunization, became available, it should be broadly available for infants and young children. 

Learn more by reading “The Indirect Impact of RSV.”