A slew of young children and newborns among the Jewish community residing in New York are reportedly being admitted to hospitals to seek treatment for RSV infections. Whilst the infection is a commonly occurring phenomenon according to some studies, here is what you need to know about the virus.
What is RSV?
According to the CDC, the Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-Uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.
Whom does it Affect?
Common amongst both adults and children, the RSV can cause problems in breathing for young children and newborns, especially since it attacks the respiratory system. Each year in the United States, an estimated 58,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection. Those at greatest risk for severe illness from RSV include
- Premature infants
- Very young infants, especially those 6 months and younger
- Children younger than 2 years old with chronic lung disease or congenital (present from birth) heart disease
- Children with weakened immune systems
- Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus secretions.
What Falls Under A Severe Case of RSV?
Virtually all children get an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old. Most of the time RSV will cause a mild, cold-like illness, but it can also cause severe illness such as
- Bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung)
- Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
One to two out of every 100 children younger than 6 months of age with RSV infection may need to be hospitalized. Those who are hospitalized may require oxygen, intubation, and/or mechanical ventilation (help with breathing). Most improve with this type of supportive care and are discharged in a few days.
What Are The Early Symptoms Of The RSV?
Among newborns and infants, RSV may not be severe when it first starts. However, it can become more severe a few days into the illness. Early symptoms of RSV may include
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
- Cough, which may progress to wheezing
Infants who get an RSV infection almost always show symptoms. This is different from adults who can sometimes get RSV infections and not have symptoms. In very young infants (less than 6 months old), the only symptoms of RSV infection maybe
- Decreased activity
- Decreased appetite
- Apnea (pauses while breathing)
Fever may not always occur with RSV infections.
How To Prevent Your Child From Contracting RSV?
RSV season occurs each year in most regions of the U.S. during fall, winter, and spring. If you have contact with an infant or young child, especially those who were born prematurely, are very young, have chronic lung or heart disease or a weakened immune system, you should take extra care to keep the infant healthy by doing the following:
- Wash your hands often
- Keep your hands off your face
- Keep Wearing Your Mask
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Avoid close contact, such as sharing cups or eating utensils with people who have cold-like symptoms.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that people frequently touch, such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices. When people infected with RSV touch surfaces and objects, they can leave behind germs. Also, when they cough or sneeze, droplets containing germs can land on surfaces and objects.
- Stay home when you are sick
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and public areas when you are sick. This will help protect others from catching your illness.
What Can Cure or Prevent RSV?
As per the CDC website, researchers are working to develop RSV vaccines, but none are available yet. A drug called palivizumab (pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb) is available to prevent severe RSV illness in certain infants and children who are at high risk for severe disease. This could include, for example, infants born prematurely or with congenital (present from birth) heart disease or chronic lung disease. The drug can help prevent serious RSV disease, but it cannot help cure or treat children already suffering from serious RSV disease, and it cannot prevent infection with RSV.
If your child is at high risk for severe RSV disease, talk to your healthcare provider to see if palivizumab can be used as a preventive measure, or alternatively take him/her to a medical professional or hospital well in time.
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