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Historically, hospitalization rates associated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among American Indian and Alaska Native children have been among the highest in the world. The new study “RSV Among American Indian and Alaska Native Children: 2019–2020,” found in the August 2023 issue of Pediatrics (published online July 14), underscores this present reality and the need for prevention strategies. More than 320 children under the age of 5 years in Arizona and Alaska who were hospitalized with acute respiratory infection from November 2019 to May 2020 participated in the study. Of the 324 children enrolled, 53% (171) tested positive for RSV. The rate of illness was greatest among infants less than 6 months old; however, rates of RSV-associated hospitalization were also high in 6-11 month olds and children in the second year of life. The study validates other research that points to a lack of running water, household overcrowding, poor indoor air quality, and other socioeconomic factors as root causes of elevated RSV hospitalizations among American Indian and Alaska Native children living in tribal lands. Authors of the study say improvements in these socioeconomic barriers to health for American Indian and Alaska Native children and RSV-prevention methods, such as maternal immunization and monoclonal antibodies, are urgently needed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.