Along with the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is reaching epidemic levels around the country, including in Illinois.
The epidemic level is considered to be reached when a state reports rates of positives cases at or above ten percent for two consecutive weeks. Illinois currently has a percentage rate of 23.
RSV is frequently mistaken for the common cold, but it can be devastating, especially on young infants, whose underdeveloped lungs and immune systems make it more difficult to fight the infection. The virus is the leading cause of hospitalization and causes about ten times more infant deaths than the flu each year.
There is no cure for the highly contagious virus, so prevention is important. Preventative steps parents and daycare providers can take include frequent washing of hands, toys, play areas, and bedding, keeping children away from sick people, and not allowing anyone to smoke around the child. RSV can live on surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, and tissues for several hours, so cleanliness is key. If a child has cold-like symptoms, they should be kept home and away from other children.
Symptoms of RSV typically show up four to six days after exposure. They include:
Signs in infants could include short, shallow, and rapid breathing, coughing, poor appetite, lethargy, and irritability. While most kids and adults will recover from RSV within one to two weeks, premature babies, infants, or adults with chronic heart or lung problems may have more severe reactions.
In severe cases, the virus can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis.
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