RSV is not just a problem for children, Canada surges, doctor warns

As cases of RSV in children rise in children’s hospitals across Canada, the number of older adults contracting and falling ill with the contagious respiratory virus is rising, doctors say.

In recent weeks, Canada has seen an increase in cases of influenza and COVID-19, as well as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common seasonal virus.

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According to Health Canada’s latest report, the spread of RSV “remains above expected levels” for this time of the year, with a nationwide prevalence of 7.7% and 1,661 cases in the week ending 12 November. A case has been detected.

RSV is highly contagious among children under the age of five and can cause serious infections in infants, but it’s not just a disease of young children, says an infectious disease expert at McGill University Health Center. says medical microbiologist Donald Bing, Ph.D. (MUHC).

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Childhood RSV cases of concern

Anyone can get RSV, and adults over the age of 65 and those with underlying medical conditions are also at high risk of being seriously affected, he told Global News.

Children’s hospitals are currently feeling the burden of patients with RSV and influenza, but there are concerns about the negative impact of ‘ongoing infections’ on the elderly.

Dr Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics, Sinai Health Hospital and University Health Network Hospitals in Toronto, said:

“And now we are very concerned about what this means for our hospitals treating adult patients,” he added.

RSV infects the respiratory tract and, like the common cold, common symptoms include fever, cough, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, trouble breathing and fatigue.

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According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these tend to appear 4 to 6 days after infection, and people infected with RSV are contagious for 3 to 8 days.

Like COVID-19, RSV is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by kissing or touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.

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In infants, RSV can also cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia, inflammation of the lungs, the CDC says. Severe respiratory syncytial virus infection in young children can also be fatal.

In fact, 2% of all deaths in children under five are due to RSV, Vinh said.

On the other hand, older children and healthy adults usually experience milder symptoms, according to the Canadian Lung Association.

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Older people tend to have chronic health problems, so they are at risk of RSV infection, which can have serious consequences such as heart attacks, pneumonia and even death, Sinha said.

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“Each year there is a significant burden of RSV disease among the elderly during cold and flu season, and it is a significant cause of hospitalization and death even within this population.”

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) does not release information on RSV cases, hospitalizations, or deaths by age.

There are currently no vaccines or drugs to treat RSV.

Pain relievers such as Advil or Tylenol and plenty of fluids can be used to relieve symptoms.

Sinha said many vaccine manufacturers are rushing to develop RSV injections, especially for the elderly, “hopefully by next year.”

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Vinh says the best defense against RSV is to prevent yourself from getting infected in the first place.

For now, doctors are recommending the same public health measures that have been used to limit the spread of COVID-19, including handwashing, masks and ventilation.

Sinha also recommended staying up to date with available vaccines to prevent other respiratory diseases.

To reduce RSV complications in infants, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the use of the monoclonal antibody palivizumab.

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Connecting the dots between COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses

— Using Teresa Wright’s file

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

RSV is not just a problem for children, Canada surges, doctor warns

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