Cottage Health is seeing a significant increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases and urges the community to take precautions to protect those most at risk, especially infants and adults over 65 years of age, as holiday gatherings can increase the spread of infection and serious illness.

RSV is a common cause of respiratory infections in people of all ages, and most children have had the virus by age 2. Infants younger than 12-months old are at the highest risk of severe disease, but older children and adults also get infected and usually have mild symptoms like a regular cold.

RSV can be a serious problem for premature infants and young infants, young children, older children with asthma or chronic lung disease, and older adults. These groups may have more serious infections and trouble breathing.

Symptoms of RSV

Most babies and children with RSV have the same symptoms as a cold or flu. These include a stuffy or runny nose, a cough, headache, and a low-grade fever. Some may develop bronchiolitis, an infection involving the lower respiratory tract and smaller airways, which causes wheezing, shortness of breath, fast breathing, and increased cough.

Signs of Serious RSV and When Immediate Care is Needed

If children are struggling to breathe, they should be taken immediately to a doctor or the Emergency Department.  

When to See the Doctor if Your Child Has a Fever

A fever is the body’s natural response to an infection. Children do not necessarily need to see a doctor for a fever unless they have additional symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, urinating less than once every 8 hours, a stiff neck or bad headache, or any time they appear ill.

A child with a fever lasting more than five days should be evaluated by a physician. For after-hours access, virtual care or urgent care can be used when the situation is not an emergency.

Any child under two months of age with a fever should see a doctor right away, as it may be a sign of a more severe illness even without other symptoms.

Call 9-1-1 if you think your child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency.

How RSV Spreads

RSV spreads easily when a person with the infection coughs or sneezes. It spreads by direct contact with an infected person. For example, kissing a child with RSV spreads the virus.

RSV can live on hard surfaces for several hours and a person can get RSV by touching something with the virus on it. These can include crib rails and doorknobs. It spreads quickly in group settings, such as daycare and schools.

Preventing RSV Infection

To help prevent the infection:

» Clean your hands before and after holding or touching your child. Use an alcohol-based hand cleaner that contains at least 60% alcohol. Or wash your hands with soap and clean, running water for at least 20 seconds. 

» Clean all surfaces with disinfectant cleaners or wipes.

» Teach your child how to wash their hands correctly and when to wash them or have them use an alcohol-based hand cleaner that contains at least 60% alcohol.

»  Have all family members or caregivers clean their hands before and after holding or touching your child.

» Try to prevent contact between your child and those with a cold or fever.

» The use of masks helps to reduce transmission of the virus.

» Don’t smoke around your child, and don’t let anyone else smoke around your child, including caregivers and family members.