Cases of a potentially deadly winter virus have increased nearly tenfold this time last year as it spreads across the country at an alarming rate.
RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is one of the leading causes of lung infections in children and can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis, which is especially dangerous in infants.
Many states are reporting the numbers are nearly ten times higher than last year, but that may be because the virus now requires mandatory reporting.
Another potential reason for the alarming rise is that more tests are being done for the virus in the wake of Covid.
Most RSV cases are mild, but severe cases can kill infants and young children, whose underdeveloped airways struggle to cope with the infection.
Cases of RSV, a dangerous respiratory virus that mainly affects infants and young children, nearly increased tenfold at this time last year, spreading at an alarming rate across the country (file image)
RSV – respiratory syncytial virus – is one of the main causes of lung infections in children and can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis (RSV virus)
Globally, nearly 120,000 children under the age of five die from the disease each year.
Adrián Esterman, UniSA epidemiologist, said ABC News the ‘explosion’ of cases could also be the result of Covid complacency.
“The way you prevent RSV is the same way you prevent influenza and COVID, that means washing your hands, that means keeping your kids home if they feel sick…and of course a lot of people have stopped doing these things”. now, I think that is why we are seeing this explosion of case numbers,” she said.
In South Australia, 3,926 RSV cases have been reported in the first half of the year, compared to 539 in the same period last year.
It’s a similar story for most states and territories, with the exception of Queensland, whose numbers are pretty comparable.
Data from Queensland Health revealed that there were 16,332 confirmed RSV cases across the state from the start of the year to June 26.
Experts say many states are reporting the numbers are nearly ten times higher than last year, but that may be because the virus now requires mandatory reporting (file image)
While NSW has already reported 29,685 cases in the first half of this year, but because the statistics were only recorded from September 2022 after RSV was deemed a notifiable disease, no number is available. comparison with last year.
There is currently no vaccine available for RSV in Australia, but one could be on the way in the near future.
Professor Esterman said a vaccine has been approved for use in the US and could soon be available to Australians.
“There is a vaccine for RSV, it’s being tested right now, and it’s actually given to pregnant women and it protects babies for up to a year,” he said.
“It’s not licensed in Australia yet, but it should be, so maybe in the next 12 months we’ll see it available.”
RSV is a common virus that spreads easily, and symptoms usually begin three to 10 days after contact with the virus.
In South Australia, 3,926 RSV cases have been reported in the first half of the year, compared to 539 in the same period last year (file image)
Most mild cases are treated at home with rest and hydration, but children under the age of 3 are at the highest risk of serious illness.
Symptoms in infants and infants include runny nose, cough, wheezing, fever, irritability or tiredness, refusal to breastfeed or bottle feed, weight loss, and shortness of breath or rapid breathing.
Parents are advised to call 000 immediately if their child appears to be very lethargic, has severe breathing difficulties, makes “grunting” noises, and has blue colored lips or skin.
RSV prevention involves limiting the transmission of the virus by regularly washing hands or using hand sanitizer, cleaning surfaces, disinfecting toys, and keeping sick children away from newborns and the elderly.
RSV: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
RSV is normally a winter disease, but the Covid lockdowns saw an unexpected large increase in summer cases last year.
Symptoms include runny nose, cough, reduced feeding, and fever. Complications include wheezing and shortness of breath, which can develop into pneumonia.
Like covid, it can be spread by sneezing and coughing, but unlike covid, young children are particularly affected by it.
“Most children will recover without the need for specialist hospital care, and children with mild infection can be managed with bed rest at home,” pediatrician Daniel Yeoh wrote in The conversation.
‘It is the leading cause of lung infections in children, commonly causing bronchiolitis.
‘Severe cases occasionally lead to death, predominantly in very young babies.
Almost all children have had an RSV infection by the age of two, but babies in their first year of life are more likely to experience serious infections that require hospitalization because their airways are smaller. Babies also have not developed immunity to RSV from previous years.
Dr Yeoh added, “Treatment for RSV focuses on helping children with breathing (for example, giving them oxygen) and feeding (for example, giving fluids through a drip).”
There is no vaccine for RSV, but several are in development.