Respiratory syncytial virus is on the rise in the Southern US.

While people have been laser-focused on COVID-19 for months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now warning about the rise of another respiratory virus: RSV.

The CDC issued a health advisory on June 10 that warned doctors about an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) across the southern US. “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 advisory read, before noting that RSV is linked 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,” the advisory said.

RSV is one of those viruses that you may be aware of on some level, but are probably fuzzy on the details. Here’s what you need to know.

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the CDC.

RSV spreads a few different ways:

  • When an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • When you get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • When you touch a surface that has the virus on it, such as a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands
  • When you have direct contact with RSV like kissing the face of a child with the virus

RSV cases had been below normal levels since April 2020, but they started rising in March 2021, the CDC says. Cases have particularly exploded in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Oklahoma, per CDC data.

Is RSV serious?

It can be. Most people with RSV get better in a week or two, the CDC says, but the virus can be serious, particularly when it infects infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, in children under the age of one in the US.

Each year, RSV leads to about 58,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 deaths in children under 5, as well as 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths in adults aged 65 years or older, the CDC says.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

People who are infected with RSV will usually have symptoms 4-6 days after they’re infected, the CDC says. Those usually include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

Why are RSV cases rising in the South?

It’s not entirely clear at this point why people in Southern states are getting hid harder with RSV. What we do know: It’s unusual to see this many RSV cases at this point in the year.

“RSV normally is seen in the late fall and wintertime,” respiratory tract infection expert Timothy Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine, tells Health. “It peaks in the winter and reduces dramatically in the springtime. But that didn’t happen this year.”

There are some theories about what’s behind this, though. “It may be that RSV levels were low in the winter because of masking and reduced interactions among people-the virus wasn’t transmitted as much,” Dr. Murphy suggests. Now that the COVID-19 vaccine has been used more widely and people are resuming some sense of normalcy, the virus has more opportunity to pass from person to person. “Kids are going back to daycare, and families and folks are getting together more-that can cause RSV to spread,” he says.

It’s possible that doctors are doing more RSV testing right now to try to figure out what’s behind a patient’s respiratory symptoms in the age of COVID-19, Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Health. “It might be testing bias in that RSV is being detected more because of all of the testing for COVID,” he says.

Ultimately, though, Dr. Murphy says that “we can all speculate, but I don’t think anyone knows the reason behind this for sure.”

How to tell RSV from COVID-19 symptoms

If you develop symptoms, it’s only natural to wonder if your symptoms could be due to RSV or COVID-19, considering that we’re still dealing with a global pandemic. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell without seeing a doctor.

“You can’t be 100% sure,” Dr. Murphy says. “They both may cause upper respiratory-type infections.” Because of this, he says, “tests are going to be necessary.”

If you develop symptoms of RSV, talk to your doctor. They’ll likely want to test you for RSV and COVID-19, just to be safe.



More research needs to be done, but experts say the link between the two is “troubling.”

COVID-19 has shown doctors, patients, and researchers alike that it’s not like other viruses-it’s been known to cause severe inflammation throughout the body, wreaking havoc not only on the respiratory system, but also the heartbrain, and kidneys, among other essential organs. Now, more research points to another “troubling” effect of COVID-19: new cases of diabetes.



The news comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which addressed the new findings in a Director’s Blog post published Tuesday. The studies, both NIH-supported pre-proof studies available in the journal Cell Metabolism, confirm “that SARS-CoV-2 can target and impair the body’s insulin-producing cells.” This, as a result, can lead to diabetes.

But it’s not just those two studies. The new findings come months after data published in a Letter to the Editor in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism: A Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics also found a link between COVID-19 infections and new cases of diabetes.

For a world that’s been ravaged by COVID-19 for more than a year now-and since, to date, the virus has infected 175 million people worldwide-this is big news. “Obviously, having COVID is much more than whether you live or die,” Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells Health. “People need to think more in terms of the long-term potential health consequences of getting infected. If you get diabetes, that will affect you for the rest of your life.”

“This nasty virus just got nastier,” William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Health. “Now, the data is much more secure that this virus can get into various organ systems and cause damage.”

Research is still ongoing to further solidify this link between COVID-19 infections and new diabetes diagnoses-but here’s what we know so far.

First, what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that happens when your blood glucose (aka blood sugar) is too high, according to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). It’s a condition that affects an estimated 30.3 million people in US (that’s about 9.4% of the population).

Blood glucose is your body’s main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Typically, that glucose is escorted to your cells by insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas, where the glucose will be used for energy, NIDDK explains. But with diabetes, a person’s body doesn’t make insulin or doesn’t use it well. That means the glucose that is supposed to be transported to cells stays in the person’s blood-and that can cause a range of serious health issues, like heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease.

Diabetes is also broken up into two main types: type 1 diabetes, which is when the body doesn’t make insulin due to the immune system attacking and destroying insulin-making cells in the pancreas; and type 2 diabetes, which is when your body does not make or use insulin well. Both types of diabetes have no cure, but the disease can be managed.

What does the research say about COVID-19 leading to diabetes?

Let’s start from the beginning: The Letter to the Editor published in Diabetes, Obesity, Metabolism in November 2020-technically a systematic review and meta-analysis-analyzed data from eight studies conducted around the world between January and May 2020 of newly-diagnosed cases of diabetes in people who had COVID-19. The analysis looked at 3,711 patients with COVID-19 and found that 14.4% (or 492 patients) were recently diagnosed with diabetes. (The exact type wasn’t always clear-just one of the studies specified the type of diabetes patients were diagnosed with, and that was type 2 diabetes.)

It’s worth noting that this specific research showed only an association between COVID-19 infections and new diabetes diagnoses, not a causal link. But according to researchers, it still rang alarm bells. “While newly diagnosed diabetes in COVID-19 patients could be attributed to the stress response associated with severe illness or treatment with glucocorticoids, the diabetogenic effect of COVID-19 should also be considered,” researchers wrote, adding that COVID-19 patients with newly-diagnosed diabetes “should be managed early and appropriately and closely monitored for the emergence of full-blown diabetes and other cardiometabolic disorders in the long term.”

The two new NIH-supported studies-one shared in Cell Metabolism on May 19, the other on May 18-took deeper look at the connection between COVID-19 and diabetes, this time from within the body.

Previously, per the NIH blog, lab studies found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was capable of not only infecting human beta cells, but was also able to replicate inside of them, allowing it to invade other cells, too. Those beta cells are important-they’re responsible for secreting insulin-and in type 1 diabetes, it’s those beta cells that don’t secrete enough insulin for the body to use. (Note: the NIH blog and one NIH-funded studies only referenced type 1 diabetes).

Going off of that information, both NIH-funded studies found and confirmed infection of pancreatic beta cells in autopsy samples from people who died from COVID-19-and one of the studies suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may “preferentially infect” those insulin-producing cells.

That’s not all: The new research also found that coronavirus infections could also change clusters of cells known as islets in the pancreas, which contain the beta cells. Specifically, both teams of researchers found that the pancreatic islet tissue showed reduced production and release of insulin following a coronavirus infection-and sometimes, infection also led to the death of some beta cells. Even some remaining beta cells were found to go through “transdifferentiation” or “reprogramming” in which they begin producing less insulin and more glucagon (another hormone that controls glucose levels)-something that, while not yet confirmed, could “worsen insulin deficiency and raise blood glucose levels,” per the NIH.

What else do you need to know about COVID-19 and diabetes?

It’s important to reiterate that the two NIH-funded studies were conducted via autopsy in people who had already died of COVID-19 to see exactly how a SARS-CoV-2 infection could affect pancreatic cells-specifically the insulin-producing beta cells. That means this research was looking at the way that COVID-19 impacts those cells, which is different than actually diagnosing a type of diabetes, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Health.

There are also still quite a few unknowns here, including what type of diabetes might be at play here (though Dr. Adalja says this may be “somewhat more like a type 1 than a type 2”) and if the severity of coronavirus infection dictates whether (or how much) pancreatic tissue and beta cells are affected.

As of right now, much more research is needed “to understand how SARS-CoV-2 reaches the pancreas and what role the immune system might play in the resulting damage,” the NIH says. Dr. Adalja adds that the next probable step in studying COVID-19’s link to diabetes is to match these study findings (which, again, were conducted via autopsy in a lab) with “actual clinical development of diabetes in surviving patients.”

And although these findings aren’t solidified as of yet, they still have an important function for doctors and patients: For one, the information may lead physicians to look more closely at COVID-19 patients, especially those with “long-hauler” symptoms, says Dr. Schaffner. And, as usual, they serve as yet another reminder to take this virus seriously, and to get vaccinated (and encourage others to do the same) to protect family members, friends, and strangers alike.


Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy

Summer is here, places are opening up again, and plenty of singles are dipping their toes back into the dating pool. And you know what that means: first dates. Exciting but somewhat nerve-wracking; there’s a lot riding on that first encounter. So, we asked board-certified clinical psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP, for her top tips to keep in mind as you move from online dating to head into a first date:

1. Get centered.

Pre-date jitters are real! Take some time to get centered as you’re on your way to the date. “Take a couple of deep breaths and let yourself feel open and honest,” Hallett recommends. Consider trying box breathing, and get into a mindset of simply being yourself. Authenticity in dating is everything.

And remember, Hallett adds, “It’s a first date—have fun.”ADVERTISEMENT

2. Know your nonnegotiables.

Have you given thought to your deal-breakers and non-negotiables? They’re important! If they seemingly meet your standards, great. But if not, “Just recognize this is not the person for you,” Hallett says.

If you don’t want to date someone who smokes, doesn’t have the same faith as you, or anything else that really matters, don’t expect them to change for you, she says.

(Here are some good first date questions to really help you see if you and your date are on the same page.)

3. Watch for red flags.

Practice active listening, and avoid being swept up in the excitement of a first date. Simply try to be aware of any red flags that might be related to your non-negotiables, Hallett says.

“Pay attention to what they say they want. If they’re into a hookup and you’re looking for forever, it’s not the right relationship,” she notes, adding, “You’re not going to convince them by being the ‘right’ one.”

4. Check in with how you’re feeling.

For some people, the thrill of someone liking you can overshadow how you actually feel about them. “If you’re focused on trying to please or impress them,” Hallett explains, “that’s not going to work.”

Instead of trying to impress on the first date, just be real and notice how you feel about yourself when you’re with them, she says. “If you’re comfortable and enjoying yourself, that’s awesome.”

5. Hold your boundaries.

And lastly, remember your personal boundaries and hold to them, Hallett recommends, “whether that’s not eating meat or holding off on sex.” Similarly, if they seem super into you, but you’re not feeling it, remember you’re not obligated to return their interest, she adds. Stay true to yourself.

The bottom line is: while first dates can be anxiety-inducing, they don’t have to be. Whether or not a second date becomes an option, if you go into the first with openness and honesty, you can always say you put your best foot forward and gave it your best shot.


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