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Flu not the only germ threat this time of year

high-risk adults die annually from an RSV infection, and that the bug is responsible for more than 177,500 hospitalizations of adults each year. In addition, pediatricians have long known that the bug is a danger to small children, affecting hundreds of thousands of children annually as the biggest cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia among infants and children under 1 year of age.

For more than a decade Falsey and Walsh, who are infectious disease experts at Rochester General Hospital, have been on the hunt for a vaccine against RSV. While they've identified several proteins on the surface of RSV, an important step toward creating a vaccine, none of the vaccines they've tested has panned out.

So while people tense up about the availability of flu vaccine or wait in long lines for a flu shot, that opportunity for prevention doesn't even present itself for RSV. Falsey and Walsh have shown that over a four-year span in Rochester, about the same number of people visited the doctor and were hospitalized for RSV and flu, and that RSV infection caused more than 10 percent of hospitalizations for pneumonia during the winter.

"At least with the flu, we have something to control it ?a vaccine," Falsey said. "We don't even have that for RSV. The lack of awareness is a big problem. It costs a great deal of money to develop a vaccine, but there's not much of a demand for a vaccine against an illness that a lot of people haven't even heard of.

"A lot of cases that people think are from flu aren't really the flu at all, but other respiratory viruses like RSV. RSV is responsible for a lot of the illness blamed on flu," said Falsey, whose work is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It's tough to tell RSV apart from the flu. Both are primarily respiratory illnesses whose effects can range from simply giving the person a few sniffles to causing life-threatening pneumonia. Someone with the flu is more likely to
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Source:University of Rochester Medical Center


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