BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) is encouraging all new and expectant parents to talk with a trusted health care provider about options for preventing respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, commonly referred to as RSV, in infants, ahead of expected case increases and while supplies are potentially limited.
RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants in the United States. Older adults may also be at risk. During the 2022-2023 season, RSV placed a heavy burden on families and health care systems. An estimated 79% of children younger than age two hospitalized with RSV have no underlying medical conditions. In addition, RSV-related hospitalizations are 4 to10 times higher among American Indian and Alaska Native children.
There are two ways to protect infants. The first is a monoclonal antibody for infants; the second is a prenatal RSV vaccine for pregnant women that passes antibody protection to their infant. Infants eligible to receive the monoclonal antibody product, also known as nirsevimab or Beyfortus™, include those under six months of age, high risk infants 6 to 8 months of age, and American Indian children under 19 months of age.
Due to limited supply of nirsevimab, parents should immunize their infants preferably before the child reaches a weight of 11 pounds.
“It’s important for expectant parents to consider maternal vaccination because the monoclonal antibody may not be available for their infants due to supply issues caused by unanticipated demand,” Molly Howell, HHS immunization director said. “HHS is working to ensure equitable distribution of the monoclonal antibody immunizations for infants throughout North Dakota who qualify for the Vaccines for Children program.”
Locations and qualifying information for the program are listed on the HHS website. HHS is working with partners in private health care to increase access to maternal RSV immunization.
Families should be aware of everyday preventive measures to limit the spread of RSV and other respiratory illnesses, including washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and staying home when sick. Breastfeeding has also been shown to be protective against RSV.
Parents should be aware of the signs of RSV and contact a health care provider if their child is having trouble breathing, not drinking enough fluids or experiencing worsening symptoms.
RSV can also be dangerous for certain high-risk adults. Each year in the U.S., an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 older adults are hospitalized and 6,000 to 10,000 die from RSV infection. Adults 60 and older may also be immunized against RSV. RSV season is just getting started in North Dakota, so now is the time to discuss RSV prevention with a trusted health care provider.
For more information, contact the HHS Immunization Unit at (701) 328-3386 or (800) 472-2180. Information about RSV can be found at hhs.nd.gov/health/rsv.