Learn how to recognize and prevent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Low temperatures and the arrival of winter set up a perfect storm for the proliferation of this disease, especially among the most vulnerable, such as children and senior citizens.
This year, unlike the previous two, coronavirus is circulating alongside the usual winter seasonal viruses like influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
This undoubtedly sets up a scenario that calls for us to be alert and increase precautionary measures. According to data recorded by the Health Ministry, in epidemiological week No. 22, 48.1% of samples showed positive for some kind of respiratory virus.
Of the more than 3,000 samples analyzed in sentinel data centers, 30% correspond to children between one to four years of age. Respiratory syncytial virus has been the most detected, with 46.7% of cases.
- But what is respiratory syncytial virus?
- RSV has become the leading viral cause of infections such as bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) and pneumonia among young children around the world.
- How is this disease transmitted?
- RSV is highly transmissible and spreads through droplets of saliva from symptomatic people for three to eight days. It can last up to 15 days in the respiratory tract.
- Who are most prone to serious contagion?
- The people most likely to have a serious RSV infection, with a chance of hospitalization, are children under two years of age and senior citizens, especially if they are immunocompromised or have other underlying pathologies.
- What are the symptoms?
- Symptoms appear within four to six days after infection, and include: runny nose, reduced appetite (in children and infants), cough, sneezing, fever and wheezing. In very young babies, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity and shortness of breath. Almost all children will develop an RSV infection before they are two years old.
- Is there a vaccine for RSV?
- Remember that there is no vaccine for RSV; therefore, it is important to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid contracting it alongside other viruses, in the case of children older than three years. There is currently no specific treatment, but symptoms such as fever can be managed with antipyretics prescribed by a doctor. You should also stay hydrated and return to a health center if symptoms persist or worsen.
- What should I do if my child has symptoms?
- RSV can be detected through sentinel surveillance of influenza-like illness (ILI) carried out in Primary Healthcare Centers (43 centers throughout the country), and also by monitoring cases of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), which is carried out in nine tertiary care sentinel hospitals from the north to very south of Chile. If these symptoms appear, it is always recommended that you call Salud Responde on 6003607777, as well as the emergency service of your Primary Healthcare Center, such as family health centers (CESFAM).
- How do I prevent the disease?
- Parents and caregivers should not forget that preventive measures are the same for all respiratory viruses: frequent hand washing; covering your face with your forearm when sneezing or coughing; ventilating your home; and wearing a facemask.
- What is the Health Ministry strategy for dealing with respiratory viruses?
- This 2022, we have prepared a universal strategy to strengthen the hospital and Primary Healthcare network to face the increased demand for healthcare. This will allow 75 billion Chilean pesos (US$87 million) to be used for:
- Strengthening acute respiratory infection (IRA) and acute respiratory disease (ERA) wards, where inhalers and aero-chambers are being acquired.
- Home care.
- Extending attention times in the Primary Emergency Care Service (SAPU) up to 24 hours according to territorial need.
- Long-term observation units in High Resolution Services (SAR).
- Reinforcing respiratory morbidity care.
- COVID-19 rehabilitation.
- Reinforcing the influenza vaccination campaign.