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Doctors working on vaccine for RSV, a virus that has killed more people than flu in some years

Repository Syncytial Virus is an illness that’s transmitted by repository droplets. East Tennessee doctors and researchers will soon begin vaccine trials to stop it.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Right now, doctors in East Tennessee are working to fight a deadly virus. However, it isn't the coronavirus.

“RSV is Repository Syncytial Virus," said Dr. Bill Smith, the CEO of Area Medical Rescue. "It’s a viral illness that’s transmitted by repository droplets like the flu and COVID."

It's a virus that can be very deadly, sometimes outpacing other more common viruses, including the flu. Smith said there are more deaths attributed to RSV than the flu in a typical year.

Three years ago, Smith’s fight against RSV became personal when the virus took someone close to him

“My whole approach and my whole thought process around RSV changed three years ago when my sister-in-law contracted an RSV infection and died within a matter of days,” said Dr. Smith.

After a member of his family contracted RSV, he has been inspired and dedicated to work towards bringing a vaccine for this illness to light.

“Being able to be involved in these vaccine studies allows me to feel like I am personally making a difference,” said Dr. Smith.

It helps him turn pain into action, he said.

There will be two large, phase-3 studies in Knoxville to help develop a vaccine against RSV. Each study will comprise about 500 participants, a small fraction of the tens of thousands that will take part in it worldwide. 

"So this will be another type of infection we can put behind us," he said.

The virus is most detrimental to people 65 years old and older. It can lead to hospitalizations or death in elderly adults.

Because the general public is generally unfamiliar with RSV, the key to finding a vaccine is to raise awareness, he said..

“Education is a critical part of how we’re going to win this battle,” said Smith.

If you are interested in learning more about RSV, the vaccine or you want to be a participant in the trial, you can call (865) 305- DRUG.

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