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As COVID-19 fades, officials are warning about a rise of a different respiratory virus — usually a problem in the fall-and-winter cold season — that may be making a comeback as spring fades into summer.

In an advisory issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and circulated by Los Angeles County public health officials, authorities warned about the recent rise of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, across the southern U.


RSV produces similar symptoms to COVID-19, and can cause severe illness not only in older adults but in young children. On an annual basis, RSV leads to 58,000 hospitalizations in children younger than 5, leading to 100 to 500 deaths; and 177,000 hospitalizations in seniors 65 and older, leading to 14,000 deaths, the CDC said.

RSV is the most common cause in babies under age 1 of two types of lung illness: pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, and bronchiolitis, which is an inflammation of the lungs’ small airways. Out of every 100 children younger than six months, one or two need to be hospitalized, and may need to be placed on a mechanical ventilator, according to the CDC.

RSV infections nationwide plunged dramatically about 14 months ago, as states imposed stay-at-home orders due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, and RSV levels remained low until about three months ago. But since late March, federal officials reported an increase in RSV cases in parts of the South.

“Due to reduced circulation of RSV during the winter months of 2020–2021, older infants and toddlers might now be at increased risk of severe RSV-associated illness since they have likely not had typical levels of exposure to RSV during the past 15 months,” the CDC said.

Officials urged healthcare providers to increase testing for RSV among patients who are suffering from respiratory disease who test negative for the coronavirus. Authorities also said it’s important for people to stay at home while sick, and that this is especially important for workers in healthcare, child care and long-term care facilities.

In infants younger than six months, RSV symptoms can include irritability, poor feeding, lethargy or apnea — a periodic gasping during sleep — according to the CDC.

Among older infants and young children, symptoms might begin with a runny nose and decreased appetite, followed one to three days later by coughing, and then by sneezing, fever and sometimes wheezing.

In adults, the illness can manifest itself with a runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, fatigue and fever.

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Nearly 4,000 Massachusetts residents out of 3.7 million fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus, health officials say

Nearly 4,000 Massachusetts residents who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus.

These so-called 'breakthrough' cases occur when people contract the disease 14 days or more after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson one-shot jab, and which officials say are not surprising.

With more than 3.7 million people in Massachusetts who have completed their vaccine series, this means breakthrough infections have occurred in about one out of every 1,000 - or 0.001 percent - according to the state's Department of Public Health (DPH).

This is roughly in line with mid-May figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - the latest for which data is available - which showed 9,245 out of at least 95 million Americans, or 0.009 percent, later tested positive for the virus

Experts say the data show how well the vaccines work in real life and, although the shots are not 100 percent foolproof, suggest that developing the virus after being fully vaccinated is very rare.    

As of June 17, 3,791 out of 3.7 million people in Massachusetts fully vaccinated against COVID-19 later tested positive for the virus. Pictured: A man is vaccinated against COVID-19 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, February 2021

This equates to about one in every 1,000 people in the state, or 0.001%, developing so-called 'breakthrough' infections

According to health department data, the number of breakthrough infections have slowly been rising.

On May 17, 3,083 fully vaccinated people later contracted COVID-19. By June 5, that number increased to 3,641, an 18 percent increase.

The latest update from the health department shows that the number then rose by 4.1 percent to 3,791.   

Experts have warned that breakthrough cases will continue to occur as tens of thousands of people are vaccinated every day across the country.

In clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing symptomatic disease and the Moderna vaccine was 94.5 percent effective,

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Meanwhile, real-world data showed the Pfizer jab was 91 percent effective against all disease for at least six months and the Moderna vaccine was 90 percent effective.

This means that fully vaccinated people are between 90 and 95 percent less likely to develop COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.

In addition, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine trials showed 72 percent efficacy in the U.S., meaning those who got the one-shot jab were 72 percent less likely to contract the disease.

By comparison, flu shots are less effective with about 40 to 60 percent efficacy, meaning that people vaccinated against the flu are more likely to get the seasonal virus than people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are to contract the coronavirus.     

'We're learning that many of the breakthrough infections are asymptomatic or they're very mild and brief in duration,' Dr Davidson Hamer, a professor of global health and medicine at the Boston University School of Public Health told the Boston Herald.   

'The viral load is not very high. Breakthroughs are expected, and we need to better understand who's at risk and whether people who have a breakthrough can transmit the virus to others.

'In some cases, they'll be shedding such low levels of the virus and won't be transmitting to others.' 

The health department called on vaccinated people to get tested if they have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who tested positive so  that researchers can track outbreaks and new variants, such as the highly transmissible Indian 'Delta' variant.

'Testing to identify current infection remains critical to control of COVID-19,' a spokeswoman for the DPH said in a statement. 

'People with current infection can spread the virus to others and isolation of cases and identification of close contacts (individuals who may have been exposed) is a foundation of public health response.' 

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  • Nearly 4,000 fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts have tested positive for coronavirus

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