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The Sudden Rise of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

by Julianna Celestin

Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus are on the rise. And as a result, healthcare facilities across the country are seeing an increase in respiratory hospitalizations earlier than average. Doctors are also anticipating an active flu season this winter season. Health officials are recommending individuals get their flu shots now. While the flu shot would not prevent individuals from getting the flu, however, it could mitigate the symptoms.

What is the Respiratory Syncytial Virus?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is one of the most common viruses to infect children worldwide and increasingly is recognized as an important pathogen in adults, especially the elderly. It infects the lungs and bronchioles, which are smaller passageways that carry air to the lungs The most common clinical scenario encountered in RSV infection is an upper respiratory infection, but is commonly presented in infants and young children as bronchiolitis.

Who is easily susceptible to Respiratory Syncytial Virus?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, individuals at an increased risk for Respiratory Syncytial Virus are:

  • Infants, especially premature infants

  • Babies who are six months of age or younger

  • Children who have congenital heart disease and [or] chronic lung disease

  • Children and [or] adults with weakened immune systems from disease like cancer, diabetes; or treatment from chemotherapy

  • Adults with heart disease and [or] lung disease

  • Older adults, especially those who are 65 years of age or over

How is Respiratory Syncytial Virus transmitted and what are the symptoms to look for?

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus is highly contagious. Like the flu, RSV is a seasonal disease. It occurs in most areas of the United States starting in the late fall and lasts through early spring.  The virus is transmitted by person to person via respiratory droplets. The incubation period after infection ranges from 4 to 6 days (Eiland 2009). However, this all depends on host factors such as age.  The virus is spread through close contact, when an infected person sneezes or coughs and the virus becomes airborne. And thus, getting through the body through the eyes, nose, and [or] mouth.  It is also spread by touching objects the virus has landed on and then touching your face. Respiratory Syncytial Virus can run rapidly though schools and childcare facilities.

The signs and symptoms of Respiratory Syncytial Virus

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention some symptoms may include:

  • A runny nose

  • Decrease in appetite

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • Fever

  • Wheezing

Parents should watch for any changes in behaviors, which may include irritability, decrease activity, and breathing difficulties in their infants and young children. Studies from the American Lung Association have shown that even after being infected, the body does not become immune to the virus. Meaning infants, young children, and those who are immunodeficient are prone to infect again.

According to Johns Hopkins, parents should get medical help right away if they notice their infant and [or] young child has:

  • Signs of dehydration

  • Lips or fingernails look blue

  • Trouble breathing and [or] breathing is rapidly

 

Treatment

Currently, there is no medication or vaccine available as treatment for RSV. However, the treatment generally involves self-maintenance. Meaning, over-the-counter medication, saline nasal sprays, plenty of fluids. However, consult with your physicians before giving your infants and young children over-the-counter medication. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease have cited that they have launched a clinical trial, which is still in the developmental stage, that could protect against respiratory syncytial virus. This could hopefully decrease the symptomatic and economic burden of this disease.

Prevention

Respiratory Syncytial Virus is a disease that impacts millions of children each year. And prevention is key in mitigating the spread. The best preventions methods are to

  • Teach children to cough and sneeze in their elbows rather than their hands.

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently touched surfaces.

  • If your child and [or] or self is sick stay home and isolate.

  • Avoid touching your face constantly with unwashed hands.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

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Julianna Celestin is an ambitious-driven graduate from Florida State University, where she has respectively obtained degrees in Family & Child Sciences and Public Health with a Minor in Child Development. She maintains academic plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare and later a Ph.D. in Public Health with a specific concentration in Health Systems Research. Julianna possesses an immense interest in adequately providing better healthcare while simultaneously equitably distributing adequate resources and high-quality care to those in fundamental need. She is passionately committed to progressively improving the social efficiency and quality of healthcare services that are being provided and not provided to those underserved, underrepresented, and vulnerable.

November 2022  page 4