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Centre County is seeing a rise in RSV cases. Here's what to know about the virus

Centre Daily Times - 11/21/2022

Nov. 21—Across the country, children are falling sick to a respiratory illness, and it's not COVID or the flu.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, symptoms manifest as a runny nose, fever, cough and fatigue for most children. In infants, RSV can be harder to detect, appearing as loss of appetite, irritability and difficulty breathing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found cases rising this year and several children's hospitals across the country are at capacity due to RSV.

As of Friday, Mount Nittany Medical Center had one pediatric hospitalization due to RSV, but has seen an uptick in cases this fall. Although hospitalizations have been stable, Mount Nittany Health has seen 100 pediatric cases of RSV from July to November, a 36% increase from last year, according to a spokesperson.

RSV can cause inflammation in the airways and lining of the lungs, which can cause respiratory distress in young children or infants, Joy Drass, medical director of pediatrics for Geisinger's western region, said.

"In general, we tend to think the smaller you are or younger you are, the more likely you are to get those lower respiratory symptoms with RSV," Drass said. "So traditionally, it's been an illness where kids under the age of 1 or 2 tend to get more sick than older kids."

But 2- to 4-year-old children may have more severe symptoms this year due to lack of exposure in previous years when much of the population followed stricter COVID precautions.

"Those kids that in the past may have seen RSV infection in their infancy and had a little bit of immune protection that they don't necessarily have right now," Dress said. "So it's hitting them a little harder than usual."

Drass said parents should watch if children complain about chest pains or have trouble catching their breath. Keeping kids home when sick is vital to stopping the spread of RSV so any children showing symptoms should be kept home from school or daycare.

According to the CDC, RSV symptoms typically present four to six days after infection. The most common symptoms include:

— Runny nose

— Decrease in appetite

— Coughing

— Sneezing

— Fever

— Wheezing

Most infections tend to go away after a week or two but parents should ensure children are drinking lots of fluids and monitor their symptoms.

Drass encourages parents to vaccinate their children for COVID and the flu so illnesses can't compound. There is no vaccine for RSV but minimizing the risk of contracting other illnesses can help prevent frequent or severe symptoms.

"One of the things that we worry about is patients who might stack one infection right on top of another or right behind another," Drass said.


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