ROCK SPRINGS — Almost all children will have been infected with RSV by their second birthday.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus is one of the most common causes of childhood illnesses during cooler months, and is primarily active during fall, winter, and spring.
In line with the seasonal occurrence of this virus, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County recently has seen increasing admissions of infants and young children diagnosed with RSV, said MHSC Infection Prevention Coordinator Isabel Lee.
It’s important to know what it is and how it can be prevented. RSV causes mild, cold-like symptoms that can result in serious illness in infants and older adults.
Spreading through Droplets
Severe forms of the infection include bronchiolitis and pneumonia, and may require hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus spreads through droplets from coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing.
Direct contact, such as kissing the face of a child with RSV, also spreads the virus. The contagious period ranges from three to eight days, but babies and older folks can continue sharing the virus in the absence of symptoms for up to four weeks, according to the CDC.
Child-care centers and schools are common environments in which exposure occurs. Anyone can contract RSV, but those at highest risk include premature babies and young children with congenital or chronic heart/lung disease, or with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.
It Can Happen to Adults Too
Adults with the same issues mentioned previously also are susceptible to this virus. Early symptoms of RSV can include runny nose, decreased appetite, and/or cough that may progress to wheezing. In babies younger than six months, the only symptoms may be apnea (pauses in breathing), decreased activity, decreased appetite, or irritability, according to the CDC.
Runny nose and decreased appetite often are the first symptoms to appear. Fever is not always present. RSV infection often will resolve on its own in one to two weeks.
However, infants younger than six months and older folks may require hospitalization if they are dehydrated or having difficulty breathing.
These symptoms can sound a lot like those of a cold or the flu, Lee said. A doctor can distinguish between them with a lab test that will confirm the diagnosis.
How to Prevent RSV
Here’s how the CDC says you can help prevent the spread:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your inner elbow or a tissue
- Avoid close contact such as kisses, handshakes, sharing eating utensils
- Avoid touching your face or your child’s face with unwashed hands
- Frequently clean high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs
- Limit the time your child spends in child-care centers or potentially contagious settings.
For more information, got to www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html.