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Can adults get RSV too? What to know about the children’s virus surging in Canada

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RSV is on the rise in Canada. Here’s what you need to know about the virus. (Photo via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, is on the rise in Canada.

And while the virus is typically known to affect children, adults can also become infected.

Recently, several U.S. hospitals have reported being “overwhelmed” by a surge of children’s RSV cases. Now, Canadian emergency rooms are starting to see an increase in the contagious virus. But how does that affect adults?

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In an interview with Yahoo Canada, Laurie Schwartz, an independent respiratory researcher at Healthcare Alliance, says that the current rise in RSV cases is “troubling.”

Can adults get RSV?

“It’s so contagious, and we usually see it in children because they’re in public spaces like schools where it’s really easy to spread the virus,” explains Schwartz.

“…However, adults can just as easily be carriers of the virus and spread it to their children or someone else’s children, and so a downward spiral ensues,” she adds. “Many adults may have the virus without knowing it because it hits adults milder, and thus we brush it off as no big deal. But to children, it’s more serious.”

Women sitting on a couch with a blanket blowing her nose.Women sitting on a couch with a blanket blowing her nose.
Despite being known as a children’s virus, RSV can also affect adults too. (Photo via Getty Images)

RSV in Canada: The need-to-know

The Public Health Agency of Canada has noted a high number of cases in much of the country (particularly in Quebec) during a time when many Canadian hospitals are already struggling with long wait times and capacity issues.

The agency’s most recent Respiratory Virus Report stated that RSV activity “is above expected levels for this time of year.” The cases are only predicted to grow as the country enters its first cold and flu season without COVID-19 measures and restrictions.

Read on to learn more about RSV, its symptoms, and how you might be able to prevent the virus.

 

Young Girl Sneezing and Blowing Nose With Tissue.Young Girl Sneezing and Blowing Nose With Tissue.
RSV activity “is above expected levels for this time of year,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. (Photo via Getty Images)

What is RSV?

According to the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, RSV is a virus that infects the respiratory tract (i.e. the lungs and airways).

Although RSV can affect anyone of any age, it’s most common in infants and children. In fact, it’s so common that by the age of two, most infants and children have been infected with some form of RSV.

RSV can be life-threatening, especially for infants and older adults with a history of congestive heart failure, asthma or other breathing issues.

However, it’s usually a mild condition that goes away on its own. If the virus persists, it can lead to more serious health issues like pneumonia or bronchitis — the inflammation of small airways in the lungs.

“In my career I have seen loads of children with RSV, and for the most part it’s fairly manageable. However, that doesn’t mean we should relax about it. If a child has never really been sick before, you just never know how they may react to the RSV virus,” says Schwartz.

RSV outbreaks tend to begin in the late fall and run until the early spring. However, cases tend to peak during the winter months.

“With cold and flu season on the way, and with less and less people wearing masks, I can absolutely see how RSV cases are surging,” adds Schwartz. “…And that goes for adults too, wear your masks, wash your hands, because you might also be a carrier of the virus.”

Runny nose. Sick little girl blowing her nose and covering it with handkerchiefRunny nose. Sick little girl blowing her nose and covering it with handkerchief
Runny nose and sneezing are common symptoms of RSV. (Photo via Getty Images)

What are the symptoms of RSV?

As per the Canadian Lung Association, the RSV virus mostly causes mild cold-like symptoms including runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, coughing and fever.

Additionally, there are warning signs that may mean a patient has a more serious case of RSV. If you or someone you know exhibits any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention right away:

  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing or having troubles breathing
  • Deeper or more frequent coughing
  • Dehydration
  • In infants, difficulty breastfeeding or bottle feeding

“If the case is mild, symptoms usually last one to two weeks. But if coughing is involved, it can take longer to curb the virus,” Schwartz explains. “As the symptoms are so similar to the common cold, it can be hard to differentiate RSV from other conditions.”

Worried mother giving glass of water to her ill kid. Sick child with high fever laying in bed. Hand on forehead.Worried mother giving glass of water to her ill kid. Sick child with high fever laying in bed. Hand on forehead.
One of the only ways to treat RSV is through at-home supportive care, such as rest and hydration. (Photo via Getty Images)

How is RSV treated?

“In most cases, RSV will go away on its own without any special medical treatment,” says Schwartz.

Additionally, RSV is not treated with antibiotics because they do not work against viruses. However, if you or your child develops pneumonia or bronchitis, they may need to be treated by a healthcare professional, given oxygen, or take other medicine to open up the airway.

One of the only ways to treat RSV is through at-home supportive care, such as rest and hydration.

How can I prevent RSV?

As RSV tends to occur in various outbreaks during the fall and winter months, it can be difficult to prevent someone from getting the virus — especially children.

Children’s settings such as day-care centres and preschools are higher-risk locations, and because the virus can stay on surfaces for hours, it is easily passed from person to person.

That said, there are ways to reduce someone’s risk of getting RSV.

  • Make sure you frequently wash their hands with soap and water
  • Do not go out if you feel sick, or avoid people who are sick
  • Do not share items that could easily pass germs, like cups, cutlery or clothing
  • Immediately throw used tissues in the garbage
  • Wear a mask

“There are very basic things that we can do to help prevent RSV, like washing our hands and staying home when feeling unwell, but not everyone puts them into practice,” Schwartz says. “This year, more than ever, please take precautionary measures for you and other people’s health.”

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World AIDS Day brings Red Scarf campaign back to Stratford – Stratford Beacon-Herald

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Stratford’s downtown core will be decorated Thursday with handmade red scarves, a symbol of hope and solidarity on World AIDS Day dedicated to the thousands of Canadians living with HIV and the stigma the virus still carries.

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Over a dozen knitters in the Stratford and St. Marys area contributed nearly 100 scarves to this year’s Red Scarf campaign, a signature event organized by Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) – a Southwestern Ontario charity that supports individuals and communities living with, at-risk for, or affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

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Each scarf is a symbol of awareness and compassion that includes on a small tag with more information about HIV and the work RHAC does. 

They’re free to take if you don’t already have one of your own.

“I think it’s important,” said Laurie Krempien-Hall, a local knitter and RHAC volunteer who’s helped organize the annual Red Scarf campaign in Stratford for over a decade. “I hope that (people) look at them, they take one … and wear it with pride.”

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The Red Scarf campaign began in 2012. Since then, volunteers have knit more than 12,000 of them in an effort to raise awareness about the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

“HIV isn’t what it used to be,” said Martin McIntosh, RHAC’s director of community relations education. “Today, people living with HIV today can lead long, healthy lives without passing the virus on to others.”

According to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR), effective HIV treatment can suppress the virus in a person’s system to a point where it cannot be transmitted to sexual partners. HIV can also be prevented by taking a medication.

Despite those advances, however, stigma remains a significant obstacle for people living with and at-risk for HIV. 

“So many people still think it’s something that’s gone away,” Krempien-Hall said. “It’s not gone away.”

“A red scarf is a really easy way to show your support,” McIntosh added. 

A World AIDS Day vigil held in Stratford prior to the pandemic hasn’t yet been revived, McIntosh said, but RHAC’s vigil at London’s First-St. Andrew’s United Church will be steamed live on Zoom for anyone who wishes to take part.

More information about RHAC’s programs and services can be found at redscarf.ca.

cmontanini@postmedia.com 

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Ontario pediatric infectious disease experts urge parents to get kids vaccinated – Cornwall Seaway News

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TORONTO — Children five and under in Ontario should be vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza before the holiday season amid surging hospital admissions, infectious disease experts are warning.

In a joint statement earlier this week, experts from four of the province’s pediatric hospitals said vaccinations are a critical tool to help mitigate the effects of a viral season that could prove longer and more severe than years past.

“In the current context of increased circulation of respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza and RSV, optimizing the uptake of both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines in children are of crucial importance, especially before the winter and holiday season,” said the statement from the Hospital for Sick Children, CHEO, the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre and McMaster Children’s Hospital.

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Data released by Public Health Ontario shows that as of Nov. 6, only seven per cent of Ontario children aged six months to five years had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and as few as two per cent were fully vaccinated.

The experts said that’s particularly concerning because children aged four and under have a higher risk for hospitalization from COVID-19 than any other group of kids and teens.

The province has not yet released data on uptake for the influenza shot this season.

Several Ontario pediatric hospitals have recently announced they would cut back on surgeries and deploy staff to help backstop overburdened intensive care units and emergency rooms.

Hospital admissions are surging under a triple-threat of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and COVID-19, at a time when the health-care system was already grappling with record numbers of job vacancies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

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Starbucks Partners Come Together for World Aids Day

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Join the Starbucks Canada Pride Partner (employee) Network in the fight against HIV and commemorating the lives lost to AIDS-related illnesses on World Aids Day (December 1) and see how we can all take action to uplift our communities.  

The impact of AIDS is felt around the globe in communities and homes near and far. An estimated 38.4 million people worldwide are living with HIV as of the end of 2021 and 650,000 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in that same year, according to the UNAIDS. Progress is being made, but still four decades into the HIV response, inequalities persist for the most basic services like testing and treatment.

This is why the Starbucks Canada Pride, Black, Pan-Asian and Indigenous Partner Networks are teaming up with I’m Ready to Know, a national program that is implementing, scaling-up and evaluating low-barrier options for access to HIV self-testing and support to everyone in Canada. Starbucks partners (employees) can visit I-AM.health/StarbucksPN to know their status and get access to free and completely anonymous HIV self-testing.

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“It is so special to collectively come together as Partner Networks, a vast and diverse representation of the Starbucks partner population, to raise awareness and action about HIV self-testing that is free and confidential, while also encouraging our partners to take their health into their own hands with such an incredible program like I’m Ready to Know. With World Aids Day around the corner, we wanted to show solidarity and demonstrate how our partners are united with the cause.”

Steven Snyder, co-chair of Canada Pride Partner Network

Partner Network Member Spotlight

At Starbucks, partner networks help create connections over shared experiences and values, encourage professional growth, raise awareness of important issues and serve as a bridge between our stores and the communities we serve. Israel (he/him), a three-year partner and member of the Canada Pride Partner Network shares his journey on educating his self and others about HIV.

“I grew up in a conservative and religious environment, and that had a huge impact on my knowledge of sexual health. I had no exposure to LGBTQ or HIV education and there was no one in my community to guide me through the experience of being a queer youth. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto and started as a Starbucks barista that I met partners (employees) who shared their knowledge and experiences with me. My fellow partners pushed me to accept and grow into my own identity and I started to become more comfortable speaking about and educating myself on the topic of HIV.

However, it was earlier this year that I was faced with it head on when I thought I had been exposed to HIV. It was a scary moment and a feeling I will never forget. With this feeling came a lot of anxiety about testing and finding out my status, but I knew I had to overcome my fear. It was this experience that showed me that there was so much for me to learn and understand and how important it is to share my knowledge with others so the stigma around HIV can be broken.

 In my unique experience as a Queer, Filipino man, I find that HIV-related stigma and discrimination are most prevalent in BIPOC communities as many of us are told HIV is ‘the gay disease’ and experience deep-rooted cultural stigmatism. This not only significantly impacts the health, lives and well-being of people living with or at risk of HIV, especially key populations, but also impedes the HIV response in many ways such as testing, treatment, and prevention services.

Advocating and sharing the word regarding HIV prevention has become very important to me. As a person with a negative status, I have the privilege of educating others around me about HIV and AIDS and helping them be ready to know their own status. I wish I had the opportunity to learn, grow, and make mistakes in a safe environment, but now, I am focused on living my wishes by looking out for how I can support other people.  Being a Starbucks partner and having the support of my fellow partners had such a profound impact on me and helped me immensely in my journey, so I hope to continue that legacy with others.

To me, World Aids Day is about uplifting those that are down and giving a voice to those that need to be heard.  The stigma surrounding HIV continues and that’s getting in the way of people leading healthy lives. This is a day to share how important it is to be informed; ignorance comes at a price, and that price can be people’s lives. This is an opportunity for us all to judge less, learn more, and practice empathy.”

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