(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is spread like a common cold with moderate to mild cold-like symptoms for adults.
“RSV is shared similar to most viruses, coughing, sneezing,” said Dr. Paul Mayer, Co-Medical Director, El Paso County Public Health Department. “It can live on surfaces like most viruses can, and so if you touch a surface like a doorknob or desk or something like that and then touch your face, that’s a great way to inoculate yourself.”
Those at the highest risk when catching RSV are infants and babies.
“Really what we are seeing clinically is because the lungs are just smaller and that those smaller age groups when we get closer to the six months and younger, they have a very undeveloped immune system,” said Dr. Michael DiStefano, Chief Medical Officer for Children’s Hospital Colorado Southern Region.
Children’s Hospital Colorado reported a steep curve of RSV infections and patients seeking treatment earlier than years past.
“This year has been very different in the fact that we saw it early,” said Dr. DiStefano. “So, it’s November. We started seeing it in late September, but it really started escalating over October.”
Dr. DiStefano said coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, younger children have a weakened immune system as they have not been exposed to past viruses.
“We were so good about social distancing, we’re so good about masking,” said Dr. DiStefano. “A lot of these kids that are three and younger have never seen this virus. And subsequently, the hypothesis is, is that because they haven’t seen this virus before, it is a little bit more severe this year.”
Coming out of the pandemic and going back into in-person learning gives a higher risk for children to share the virus.
“So, I think the fact that we haven’t had it within our community for a while now, we have a whole bunch of kids who are getting it and subsequent passive passing it on,” said Dr. DiStefano.
Tips to prevent catching RSV are similar to catching a common cold.
“Wash your hands regularly, especially before you eat,” said Dr. Mayer. “When you get home from school, you get a store anywhere at any time you’ve been in a public place. Trying to teach your kids to cover their cough or sneeze when they’re in school or anywhere else.”
If you are sick with RSV, Meyer recommends drinking lots of fluids and medicine to bring down your fever.
“It’s fluids, you know, lots of fluids which really matter so push fluids,” said Dr. Mayer. “Tylenol for fevers is the safest thing. But we do specifically recommend against any decongestants or cough medicines, especially in younger children.”
An expert’s guide can be found online for knowing the difference between COVID-19, RSV, and Flu. Children’s Hospital also has a hotline parents can call to speak with an experienced and registered pediatric nurse available 24/7.
Dr. DiStefano emphasized how important it is for the Colorado Springs community to realize how many cases there are of RSV in Children’s Hospital.
“I think it’s important for the community to know that this respiratory season is actually very historic,” said Dr. DiStefano. “We are about 30% greater in acute care visits than we ever have seen in any other respiratory season.”
With an increase in cases, Dr. DiStefano said to be patient when seeking medical assistance.
“When you get to an emergency department, realize that the amount of illness and virus like the viral load that we’re seeing within the community is very large,” said Dr. DiStefano.