Across the U.S., hospitals are tracking an increase in RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases in children.
“If anything, it’s just getting started, especially as we get into the winter months,” program director of family practice at OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital, Ben Bring, DO told NBC4 reporter Caleb Michael, “That’s usually when these viruses are thriving and spreading. So, the next four to six weeks could be a pretty high viral season for us this year.”
The virus causes around 58,000 hospitalizations annually and 100 to 300 deaths in children under age 5, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
RSV has two subtypes A and B. The A subtype is usually responsible for some of the more severe cases that we see in the office and in the hospital. Usually, it is spread through direct contact through the nose and mouth and so hand washing is one of the most important things that we can recommend for prevention of spread of the virus. This can be diagnosed by testing respiratory secretions through a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and these are highly accurate for detection of the virus.
Below is a Q&A with Dr. Bring to answer more questions regarding RSV:
What are common symptoms of RSV?
The most common symptoms are cough, congestion and sometimes fever associated with the virus. If kids get a severe lower respiratory infection it may present with difficulty breathing and wheezing which sometimes can require hospitalization if it is severe. If you have questions about your symptoms we recommend follow up with your pediatrician or family doctor to make sure the correct diagnosis is made. Asthma and other lung conditions can sometimes make these symptoms worse for younger children.
What ages are most impacted by RSV?
We usually see and talk about RSV in younger children however, it is also possible to cause pneumonia or bronchitis in older adults especially if they are immunocompromised. Younger children generally present with upper or lower respiratory infections and can also sometimes have trouble breathing. One of the most common conditions we will see with younger kids less than two years old is “bronchiolitis” which is inflammation of the small airways in kids. This can cause difficulty breathing and may require hospitalization.
What are some ways parents or guardians can prevent their child from getting the virus?
For prevention we recommend frequent handwashing as direct exposure to secretions is the primary method of spreading the virus. We also recommend staying home if your child is sick with a fever, chills, cough, and is having symptoms consistent with a viral infection. Mask wearing in crowded places can also be an effective way of minimizing respiratory droplet transmission and infection. For handwashing, soap and water are always best for at least 30 seconds and hand sanitizer can be used if there is no access to soap and water. There is another preventative treatment called Synagis which can be given to babies born prematurely at or before 35 weeks who are less than 6 months old during RSV season. This shot helps fight infection in this high-risk population – please talk to your physician if you think your child might be at higher risk.
What should a parent or guardian do if they feel their child may have RSV?
If your child has signs and symptoms of RSV including cough, fever, and congestion try to make an appointment with your physician right away. Most of the time our treatment plans will encourage conservative measures such as oral fluids, anti-inflammatory medications, and rest, however, some kids might require higher levels of care if they are having trouble breathing. Also, if your child is sick, please keep them at home and do not let them go to school – especially if they have a fever and cough.