Hospital emergency rooms here and across the country are swelling with young patients who are sick, including some struggling to breathe properly, as cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, climb and the indoor season begins to bring on other similar viruses.
“Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is very busy,” said Dr. Felicia Scaggs Huang, associate director of infection prevention and control at the hospital. “We have more people admitted for respiratory illnesses than usual.”
She said the hospital has the capacity to take other admissions when appropriate. “We are not turning away any patients who require admission for respiratory illnesses. And we will always be working to provide high-quality care to our pediatric patients.”
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We asked the doctor for tips for parents and other caregivers, who are keeping a close eye on their children’s noses and assessing for signs of difficulty breathing.
Q. What is respiratory syncytial virus?
A. Respiratory syncytial virus is a virus that most children have been exposed to by the time they’re 2 years old. Symptoms vary from just a mild cold to bronchiolitis, or inflammation of the small airways in the lungs, or pneumonia. A lot of children were not exposed to RSV in the past couple of years because the COVID-19 pandemic changed how people interacted. So a lot of kids are getting RSV now because it’s the first time their immune system has encountered it.
Q. Is RSV on the rise?
A. We are seeing more respiratory illness-related admissions overall as well as an increase in the number of positive RSV and influenza tests.
Q. How can I help my child avoid this virus?
A. The virus is contracted through respiratory droplets and contact with surfaces that have these droplets on them. Go with the usual prevention strategies: Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water. Keep your hands off your face. Avoid close contact with those who are sick. Disinfect surfaces. If you are sick, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands afterward, and stay home (or keep your children home).
Q. I heard it’s tough to recognize RSV. How can I know if my child has it?
A. The virus can be clinically indistinguishable from other respiratory viruses. In older kids, it often manifests as just a cold. Children who are less than 6 months old or who have chronic medical conditions like asthma can present with more severe symptoms. Over time, the virus can progress and involve the small airways in the lungs, which could cause wheezing, breathing fast, or looking uncomfortable while breathing. Young infants may have pauses in their breathing or apnea. If you see those symptoms, in addition to your child not eating and drinking enough, call your pediatrician. Focusing on the hydration status and work of breathing can also help determine if your child needs to get evaluated.
Q. How do hospitals treat the virus?
A. If a baby or child develops bronchiolitis – a wheezing-type illness that involves smaller airways in the lungs – or pneumonia, we treat it with what we call supportive care. So, providing oxygen if a child needs it. Often, these children have a lot of secretions, so we help suction them out. And we would give a child IV fluids if they need them. However, there aren’t antibiotics or antivirals that can help treat RSV at this time.
Q. Is there a vaccine to guard against the virus?
A. There is not currently a vaccine that is available to the general public for RSV unfortunately. At Cincinnati Children’s, we are working to develop a vaccine candidate for RSV to help prevent severe disease in children who are most at risk.
More: Vaccine for pregnant people?RSV vaccine during pregnancy could prevent life-threatening respiratory virus in infants
Q. What other respiratory illness may be on the rise?
A. Many experts are predicting overall we will have a very busy respiratory illness season. These experts are also predicting that we will see an increase in COVID-19 over the holiday season as families get together with relatives from out of town. Being up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination is very important. I have an infant and a toddler who are fully vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19, and I will get them boosted when they’re eligible. I think other parents should too.
HIV/AIDS progress in Brazil
December 1 is World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness and show support for those living with AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Treatment of HIV/AIDS has come a long way since the first cases became public in the 1980s.
And Brazil is one country that led the way; its pioneering programs to identify and treat patients recognized the world over.
In recent years, however, the country’s progress has shown to be slipping.
Early RSV season primarily impacts infants
Dear Doctors: What can I do to protect my baby from RSV? What are the symptoms? People are talking about a “tripledemic,” and it has my husband and me worried. We’re both vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19, and we are being super careful when we’re out and about. What else can we do?
Dear Reader: RSV is short for respiratory syncytial virus. It’s a common winter virus that can affect people of any age. In most cases, RSV infection causes mild symptoms similar to the common cold. However, infants and children younger than 2, whose immune systems are still developing, are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill.
RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia in infants and young children in the United States. It is also the leading cause of bronchiolitis in that age group. That’s a lung infection in which the smallest airways become inflamed and swollen, and an increase in mucus production impedes air flow into and out of the lungs.
This year, as with the flu, RSV season has arrived early. Hospitals throughout the U.S. are reporting a surge of serious infections among infants and younger children.
The virus enters the body through the airways and the mucous membranes. It can remain viable on hard surfaces — such as a doorknob, night table or dinnerware — for several hours. It can also persist on softer surfaces, such as a tissue or the skin. Someone can become infected by breathing in the viral particles that remain airborne following a cough or a sneeze, or by touching their mouth, nose or eyes after direct contact with contaminated droplets.
Someone who is sick with RSV typically remains contagious for between four and eight days. However, due to their still-developing immune systems, it’s possible for infants to continue to spread the virus for several weeks, even after symptoms of the disease have abated. There is no vaccine for this virus, and no targeted treatments. Prevention relies on the same precautions you use to avoid any respiratory illness. That is, keep your baby away from people who are ill, avoid close contact with people outside your home and be vigilant about hand hygiene.
Symptoms of RSV arise between three and six days after infection. They can include a runny nose, sneezing and coughing, fever, a decrease in appetite and lung congestion that can cause wheezing. These symptoms tend to be progressive, arriving in stages as the body mounts its attack against the virus. But in very young patients, the first, and sometimes only noticeable, symptoms of RSV can be increased fussiness, a decrease in activity and difficulty breathing.
Treatment for RSV consists of managing symptoms. The specific avenue of care depends on a child’s age, general health and symptoms. In infants, treating RSV includes a focus on adequate hydration and remaining alert for any signs of problems with breathing. The majority of RSV infections run their course in a week to 10 days. Parents of younger infants should check with their pediatricians for guidance on treatment, particularly medications. If your child has difficulty breathing, isn’t drinking enough fluids or has worsening symptoms, call your health care provider right away.
Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.
AIDS Memorial Quilt comes to Palm Beach County
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The largest piece of community folk art in the world, a tribute to victims of AIDS, is on display in Palm Beach County.
Now through Dec. 15, three different panels of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, often known as the AIDS Quilt, will be on display at three different Palm Beach County Public Library locations.
The quilt is a giant tribute to the lives of people who have died due to AIDS or AIDS-related causes.
The quilt weighs around 54 tons and was started in the 1980s during the early years of the AIDS pandemic.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is comprised of nearly 50,000 panels containing 91,000 names of the men, women and children who lost their lives to the immune system disease.
The blocks, which make up the panels, are stitched by individuals in communities across the nation, including one librarian right in Palm Beach County.
Katrina Brockway, a librarian at the Hagen Ranch Road Branch Library, said she feels it brings tragedy a bit closer to home.
“It becomes so much more personal when you see these quilt panels and all of these people who were loved and didn’t have the same opportunity to escape this,” Brockway said. “So you can remember them, what they went through, and what their loved ones have gone through.”
Visitors can see the quilt panels during normal library hours at the library’s main branch on Summit Boulevard at the Jupiter branch and at the west Boca Raton branch.
Click here for the library’s hours and more information on upcoming AIDS events at the library.
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