RSV Season Hits NJ — Immunization is Available For Certain Groups
Perhaps this will be a calmer season for RSV in the Garden State.
Activity of respiratory syncytial virus is on its way up in New Jersey for the 2023-2024 season, but there are new options available this year for the demographics considered to be most vulnerable to the illness.
RSV is just a cold-like nuisance for many people who contract it — almost everyone does at some point during their life — but severe complications are possible for the state's youngest and oldest residents.
Immunizations have been approved on the federal level over the past several months to give at-risk patients a better shot at fighting RSV.
For the first time in the U.S., RSV vaccines have been given the green light for individuals aged 60 and older. Currently, there are two RSV vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this demographic: Arexvy and Abrysvo. Both proved to be at least 80% effective in preventing RSV-related lung infections during the first RSV season after vaccination.
Abrysvo is also the tool being recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for pregnant women who want to protect their newborns from severe RSV illness.
One dose of the vaccine is recommended for moms during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy, if it can be administered during or immediately before RSV season, which runs from the fall through the spring.
RSV immunization for babies
This is also the first RSV season with an official proactive option for infants and at-risk toddlers.
Approved in July for release this fall, nirsevimab (the trade name is Beyfortus) is an injection of antibodies, which differs from traditional vaccinations.
The CDC is recommending one dose for all infants younger than eight months.
"You're giving them that extra layer of protection as they enter their first RSV season, to decrease any hospitalizations, emergency department visits, et cetera," said Dr. Juanita Mora, spokesperson for the American Lung Association.
It's also recommended for children aged eight months to 19 months who are at increased risk for RSV.
RSV activity in New Jersey
According to Edward Lifshitz, medical director of the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health, RSV tends to rear its head before the flu each year.
"It's still very early in the season. We are beginning to see some increases in RSV," Lifshitz said.
Lifshitz said it's too early to know how this year's RSV season will turn out. New Jersey, like much of the nation, saw an uptick in RSV cases and hospitalizations last year, as we came out of the coronavirus pandemic and many people did away with precautionary measures such as masking.
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