TAMPA, Fla. — Cases of a seasonal respiratory virus are on the rise in the state of Florida. 

What You Need To Know

Doctors are seeing a surge in patients heading to emergency rooms, thinking they have COVID-19, when actually it’s respiratory syncytial virus or commonly known as RSV. 

“RSV is a very common respiratory virus and we see it every year,” said Dr. John Prpich, a pediatric pulmonologist with St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.

He says RSV is very contagious and is one of the most common reasons for pediatric hospital visits, and most kids will get it by the time they turn 2 years old.

“Surprising to all of us, over the past five weeks we started to get this very rapid increase," Prpich said. "So when I last looked at the virology, we were above 28%, which is very high. Typically the highest I see is around 25%, so it really was a very rapid and precipitous increase."

RSV can be especially dangerous to both children and elderly patients who are at high risk for heart disease or respiratory issues. 

Usually RSV season in Florida runs from September to March, but this year it has extended into May.

“I’m not really quite sure if it’s also over the last 4 to 5 weeks as vaccines have really rolled out, we’ve felt a little more comfortable we’ve had more mixing," Prpich said. "Maybe more play dates, but really it’s when you get kids together is when you see it."

The RSV season in Tampa should be done by now, and this year is unprecedented, Prpich added.

This year flu cases are down and COVID cases are improving, but there’s no vaccine for RSV.

In the meantime, Prpich suggests that people should take the same precautions as with any other virtual transmission, such as good hand washing and keeping surfaces clean.

“We haven’t had any mutations, this is just our standard RSV, just not when we’re used to seeing it,” he said.