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Local Impact of RSV Infections — and the other scourges of the season

A CVS Pharmacist administers a COVID-19 vaccine in Fall River, Mass.. Scott Eisen/CVS Health via AP Images.
As the nation faces a rare trifecta of infectious diseases looming for the winter season, public health officials at both the Centers for Disease Control and the Vermont Department of Health are issuing familiar cautions: getting available vaccinations up to date; covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow or tissue; consider masking when participating in events with a large number of people; washing hands with soap and water frequently; and staying home if you have symptoms of a cold or flu.

It may be a matter more of luck than prudence, but thus far the Capital City region and Vermont in general have not suffered a serious impact from the current wave of RSV (respiratory syncytial [pronounced sin-SISH-uhl] virus) circulating along with yet more COVID-19 variants and the annual cycle of seasonal influenza.

What is RSV?

In short, RSV is the common cold that settles in the chest via a runny nose, possible sore throat, and usually a persistent cough. What has been unusual this year is its early predominance among children under four years old, who have by far the highest rates of hospitalization among all age groups.

It is important to note that we have minimal data about the incidence of RSV. “Reporting of test results is not required for RSV,” explained Ben Truman at the Vermont Department of Health. This likely means that for most of the country, including Vermont, the actual incidence of RSV is under-reported. 

As of last week, Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC) had only one hospitalized patient who had tested positive for RSV, according to spokesperson Jay Ericson. “On the other hand, our providers are reporting far more respiratory illness than in recent years,” he said. In most cases the illness is mild; but for children whose immune systems are compromised, and very young babies born prematurely, RSV can be dangerous.


While COVID and its succession of variants have been the concern in the forefront of health issues for three years now, influenza is at its highest level in more than a decade throughout the U.S. mainland — with the seemingly unlikely exception of New Hampshire, where the incidence is merely at the higher end of Low, according to the most recent data reported by the CDC (Dec. 10, 2022). 

The incidence of influenza is currently high throughout Vermont and much of the rest of the country. Data about the incidence of flu in Vermont is reported on a weekly basis at healthvermont.gov/immunizations-infectious-disease/influenza/flu-activity-and-surveillance

Vaccination Clinic Access Extended

The Vermont Department of Health has established new hours that include more evenings and weekends through the end of December, making it easier for those who work or go to school to get vaccinated quickly and easily for flu and COVID. People are encouraged to take advantage of expanded hours at Health Department vaccination clinics — where you can walk in, with no appointment necessary.

Starting Dec. 19, many clinics will also offer the updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccine newly approved for eligible children 6 months to 5 years old. Visit healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine for more details.