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Frequently asked questions regarding RSV outbreak

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RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is facing an outbreak, and people have some frequently asked questions about it.

RSV hospitalizes thousands of children every year.

In September and October of this year, there has been a major spike in how many cases are popping up among children.

The infections are normally mild, but sometimes have become severe and dangerous.

My Twin Tiers reports on what an expert pharmacist who specializes with pediatric infectious diseases has to say.

Jennifer Girotto, pharmacist, answered some of the most frequently asked questions about RSV.

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RSV explained

RSV is a virus that attacks the respiratory system. Around 2 million children under the age of 5 are impacted each year.

It is believed that most children have had the illness by age 2.

The virus is usually in circulation between November and March every year, typically disappearing in summer except on rare occasions.

Who is at risk for contracting the virus?

Most people only suffer mild symptoms, especially if they’ve already had the illness in the past. Children may experience wheezing and loss of appetite.

Young infants under the age of 6 months old, especially those born premature or with heart or lung issues can experience it severely.

The CDC reports that 1% to 2% of infants under the age of 6 months will need hospitalization if the contract RSV.

250 children die every year on average from RSV.

How does someone infected get sick?

The main way RSV attacks is by infecting and killing surface cells within small sacs of the lungs. Mucus and fluid production are increased in those areas of the body as a response.

Unfortunately, the mucus buildup could block these areas of the lung, restricting oxygen within an infant.

Infants can also suffer pneumonia related to RSV and fail to eat, requiring admittance to the hospital.

What does the outbreak look like this year?

Around 60,000 children go to the hospital with RSV each year. This year, the virus has come early and spread fast. One week in October had more cases than any week before in the last two years.

Why it’s so bad this year is currently unknown, but health officials think that the season has shifted after COVID-19 hit. Many think that with all of the precautions in place for the last two years, infants and children are being exposed for the first time all at once.

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Protecting your child against RSV

The illness is spread through dirty surfaces or when a sick person coughs and sneezes.

If infants or children suffer from medical issues, they can take an antibody medication monthly during RSV season to stay safe.

Vaccines are in development but no such thing is available yet.

If someone is sick, it’s best to stay away from them until they’re better.

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