Friday, August 13, 2021
The Atlantic County Division of Public Health is asking residents to be on alert for symptoms of Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV. RSV infection primarily occurs seasonally during the fall and winter months in the U.S., however, cases of RSV in children have been on the rise across the country since late March and have promoted concern among U.S. health officials who are also monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and the highly transmissible Delta variant.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that typically causes cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing. Most people can be treated at home and recover within a week or two. But for infants, young children and older people, RSV can be more severe and lead to bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, most children get an RSV infection by age 2 that only causes mild illness, but an estimated 58,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized each year due to an RSV infection. Very young babies and children with underlying lung conditions or weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable.
Infants who contract an RSV infection almost always show symptoms, while adults can be asymptomatic. In infants less than 6 months old, the symptoms of RSV infection may include irritability, decreased activity, decreased appetite and apnea (pauses while breathing).
Like COVID-19 and influenza, RSV spreads through respiratory droplets in the air when a person coughs or sneezes and can linger on skin and other surfaces including toys, which can also be a source of transmission.
Prevention and control efforts implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic also helped to prevent transmission of RSV and other seasonal respiratory viruses. Due to this reduced circulation, older infants and toddlers who did not have typical levels of exposure to RSV during the past 15 months might now be at greater risk for RSV-associated illness.
Parents and caregivers are advised to contact a healthcare provider if their child exhibits any of these symptoms so they can be tested for RSV and COVID-19. If symptoms worsen call 911.
Children should not attend childcare centers or camps while acutely ill, even if they test negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
There is no vaccine to prevent RSV infection at this time although there is medicine to help protect some babies at high risk for severe RSV disease.
Individuals who have contact with young children, especially those who are most vulnerable, should practice safe hygiene protocols including frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding close contact, staying home when sick, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.