What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?

This year, emergency departments across the country are seeing an unusually early rise in very young and elderly patients with respiratory distress, often caused by respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. We asked UCSF Children’s Hospitals Benioff experts Steven Bin, MD, medical director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine; Ann Petru, MD, director of Infectious Diseases; Ted Ruel, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Global Health; Christopher Vlasses, MD, associate professor of pediatrics; and April Zaat, MD, associate director of hospital medicine, to weigh in on what RSV is and why we’re seeing so many cases.

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus is a seasonal respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in one to two weeks, but RSV can be serious, especially in babies and older adults.

Why are we seeing more RSV cases earlier this year?

RSV spread began in mid-October this year, earlier than usual. We typically see RSV patients from December through February. This is likely because COVID precautions such as mask and shelter-in-place mandates were lifted this summer, and as the weather cooled, socializing indoors hastened an earlier and more rapid spread of the virus. .

We are also seeing older babies with RSV than in previous years. In times before the pandemic, most babies contracted RSV by the time they were 2 years old, according to the CDC. But we are seeing an unusual influx of RSV patients ages 2 to 4 this year, likely because these young children were not exposed to the virus as newborns when most people were wearing masks and when schools were closed, so many have not developed. protective antibodies.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

People infected with RSV usually show symptoms similar to those of a common cold within four to six days of infection. Symptoms include:

Runny nose Decreased appetite Coughing Sneezing Fever Wheezing Lethargy Difficulty breathing

Who is most vulnerable to RSV?

Most susceptible to RSV are premature babies, newborns, and infants, especially those younger than 6 months, children younger than 2 years with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease, and children with weakened immune systems.

Similarly, older children and adults with chronic heart, lung, or immune problems can also be severely affected by RSV.

When should I take my child to the hospital emergency department if I suspect RSV?

If your baby is distressed (not eating, not drinking, having trouble breathing, or a high fever), take him to your local emergency department (ED). EDs will assess incoming patients and treat those with the most acute symptoms immediately. If you are unsure or if your child has milder symptoms, contact your child’s primary care physician, advice nurse, or local urgent care center.

How is RSV diagnosed?

Most children with cough, cold, and breathing problems can be diagnosed by their primary care doctor, but RSV can only be confirmed by a PCR test (nose or throat swab), which is usually done on the sickest patients. and those requiring hospital admission. hospital.

Is RSV contagious?

RSV is highly infectious and is spread by close contact through droplets containing the virus when someone coughs or sneezes. It is also transmitted by touching items and surfaces (such as doorknobs and toys) contaminated with droplets and then touching your nose and eyes. Direct contact with the virus, such as kissing the face of a child with RSV, also spreads the virus.

This virus remains active on surfaces longer than most, so it is important to wash your hands and disinfect surfaces regularly to reduce the spread of infection.

How long is a person with RSV contagious?

People with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days and can become contagious one to two days before they start to show signs of illness. However, some babies and people with weakened immune systems can continue to spread the virus for up to four weeks, even after they stop showing symptoms.

How is RSV treated?

Most RSV infections resolve on their own in a week or two. Antibiotics will not help unless there is a secondary bacterial infection.

You can manage RSV by:

Get enough rest in bed. Take over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to control fever or pain. (Never give children aspirin.) Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Be sure to check with your pediatrician before giving children over-the-counter cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.

How can I protect my family from RSV this winter?

Careful hand hygiene, wearing face masks in public, and up-to-date vaccinations for COVID-19 and influenza will help protect you and your family from this and other respiratory viruses.

Source: news.google.com