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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: November 3, 2022

Large Increase in Respiratory Virus Impacting Kids in Western Washington

A surge of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases in children has contributed to a shortage of hospital beds for children in our region and put a strain on our pediatric healthcare system. This means kids that need special care might need to be transferred to hospitals farther away from where they live, and that hospitals have less capacity to treat children for other illnesses or injuries. We are asking that everyone know the common symptoms and follow basic prevention tips to reduce the spread of RSV and lessen the impact of this virus on pediatric care in our region. 

 

Who is most at risk from RSV?

RSV can be dangerous for some infants and young children. Children at highest risk include:

  • Premature infants.
  • Very young infants, especially those 6 months and younger.
  • Children under 2 with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease.
  • Young children with weakened immune systems due to either a medical condition or treatment.
  • Children who have neuromuscular disorders, including those who have difficulty swallowing or clearing mucus.

 

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Children infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected. Symptoms often include:

  • Coughing.
  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Fever.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sneezing.
  • Wheezing.

In very young infants, the only symptoms present may be irritability, decreased activity and breathing difficulties. Symptoms typically appear in stages, not all at once. Most children recover from illness in 8 to 15 days.

 

How does RSV spread?

RSV can spread through coughs or sneezes, direct contact (e.g., kissing), or touching the face with dirty hands after touching surfaces that have the virus on it. The same practices that prevent other respiratory viruses also prevent RSV. 

 

Ways to prevent the spread of RSV:

  • Keep anyone sick at home. Children should not not attend school or daycare nor should they participate in any group activities when sick. 
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces often (e.g., doorknobs, mobile devices, toys).
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with elbows or tissues.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact (e.g., kissing, prolonged hugging).  
  • Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils.
  • If you are sick, wear a properly fitting mask when around others if it’s safe to do so. Children under 2 should not wear masks. Children 2-4 years old can wear a mask with adult supervision.

 

RSV rates in the pacific northwest are higher now than they have been in the last 3-4 years. Please use the tips here to help us slow the spread of this virus and help keep our youngest kids from getting sick. If you have specific questions about RSV, reach out to your child’s healthcare provider. If there is a life-threatening medical emergency, call 911.


 To learn more about RSV, visit https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/.

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