The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory on Thursday warning doctors and other healthcare providers about the rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) across the south.
According to the CDC, RSV is primarily spread via respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes through direct contact with a contaminated surface.
It can cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia, especially in children under the age of one.
The CDC added that older adults with chronic medical conditions are also at risk.
"Due to this increased activity, CDC encourages broader testing for RSV among patients presenting with acute respiratory illness who test negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19," the CDC wrote in the advisory. "RSV can be associated with severe disease in young children and older adults. This health advisory also serves as a reminder to healthcare personnel, childcare providers, and staff of long-term care facilities to avoid reporting to work while acutely ill – even if they test negative for SARS-CoV-2."
Although RSV infections occur primarily during the fall and winter cold and flu season, in March, the CDC saw an increase of RSV being reported by the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System, which is a nationwide laboratory-based surveillance network.
The CDC said each year, between 100-500 children under 5 years old and 14,000 adults older than 65 die from the virus.
The agency recommended that clinicians test patients who show signs of acute respiratory illness who test negative for the coronavirus.