Here are 10 things to know about RSV, which is on the rise in young children in Canada

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) positivity rates are on the rise in several Canadian cities.

Earlier this month, Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, told The Canadian Press that she and her colleagues had seen a lot of respiratory disease since children in Ontario returned to school this fall.

Weekly positivity rates for the disease are around 13% in Quebec, and one Ottawa hospital has seen an increase in hospitalizations for RSV. CHEO at the Ottawa Children’s Hospital said for the week ending Oct. 15, about 10% of RSV tests were positive.

Dr. Clement Lee is a pediatrician at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. On Monday, Dr. Lee took to Twitter to share some facts about RSV.

Dr. Lee spoke with The Star for more information. Here’s what you need to know about RSV.

What is RSV?

RSV is a virus that targets the respiratory system, Dr. Lee said. He said RSV affects all parts of the world and can infect people at any time of the year.

The virus contains a molecule called ‘protein F’ which causes cells in the airways to fuse and form ‘syncytia’. These fusions are not normal and are prone to death, Dr. Lee said.

He said that when the syncytia die, they fall into the airways and cause breathing difficulties.

How common is RSV?

« If your children are in daycare or come into contact with other children, they are very likely to come into contact with someone who has RSV, » Dr. Lee said.

“It’s relentless. Before the COVID era, it happened every year,” Dr. Lee said.

« We saw (RSV) skip a few years during the pandemic, due to good hygiene and masking procedures, but now he’s back. »

What are the symptoms of RSV?

Symptoms of RSV include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, difficulty eating, low energy and low hydration, Dr. Lee said. He said parents might be able to hear the virus affecting their children’s lungs.

« If you listen to the lungs of a child with RSV, you can usually hear crackling or the sound of Rice Krispies in the chest, which means there’s an infection in the lungs, » Dr Lee said. .

In severe cases, RSV can cause a patient to pass out, remain unconscious, stop breathing, or die.

How do I know if I have RSV?

RSV symptoms are similar to symptoms of other respiratory viruses, Dr. Lee said. He said that means it can be difficult to distinguish RSV from other similar viruses.

Usually, doctors can diagnose RSV patients after a nasal swab, Dr. Lee said. He said that, as with COVID-19, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for RSV are available in some hospitals.

Who is most vulnerable to RSV?

While anyone can be infected with RSV, Dr Lee said people with weakened immune systems are most at risk of RSV. This means that children and the elderly are most at risk from RSV.

When is RSV most common?

While RSV can infect people year-round, Dr. Lee said the virus is generally more prevalent in the colder months.

(RSV) can infect all year round, but mostly it infects certain months of the year and during other months it hides,” Dr Lee said.

« This year, we’re seeing it come out strong in late summer and early fall. »

When should I go to the hospital for RSV?

Although RSV can be serious, not all cases of RSV lead to hospitalization, Dr. Lee said.

“Many children with RSV only have mild disease. For many of them, you would never know they had RSV,” Dr. Lee said.

« These children may just have a bit of a runny nose, or a bit of a fever or a cough, which comes and goes like any other cold. »

Dr Lee said young children who have great difficulty breathing should be taken to hospital. The same goes for very dehydrated children, Dr. Lee said.

Babies who drink significantly less fluid than usual or « make (a lot) fewer diapers » than usual should also be taken to hospital for evaluation, Dr Lee said. He said babies who have difficulty breathing may shake their heads or expand their chests and bellies significantly when they breathe.

People who do not wake up or who have fainted should also be taken to hospital.

What is the treatment for RSV?

Currently, Dr. Lee said, the primary treatment for RSV is supportive care.

« (Supportive care) is about thinking about the things that brought the patient to the hospital in the first place and reversing them, » Dr. Lee said.

He said dehydrated patients can be given fluid intravenously and ventilators can help patients breathe.

How can I protect myself from RSV?

Dr Lee said good hygiene reduces the risk of RSV infection. He said people should wash their hands frequently, especially after playing with children or changing diapers.

“I also recommend not kissing babies directly on the lips,” Dr. Lee said. He added that giving babies their space would reduce the risk of infection.

Dr Lee also said people who might be sick should stay home.

« It’s wise not to go to work if you have symptoms of infection, even if you only have a mild fever or cough, runny nose or sore throat, » Dr Lee said.

« You never know who you’re going to come into contact with. »

Is there a vaccine against RSV?

Dr Lee said treatment for RSV may soon be possible. He said there are antibodies that have been studied for the prevention of RSV, and that mRNA vaccines may one day be able to prevent RSV.

Biotechnology company Pfizer has announced that it is conducting preclinical trials of an mRNA vaccine to prevent RSV. The same goes for rival biotech company Moderna.

« The horizon for RSV therapies is very promising, » said Dr. Lee. « But that’s going to take a few years later. »


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