Children Health

CT Dept. of Public Health, hospitals warn parents about respiratory viruses this fall

Physicians have seen an increase in infections of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

CONNECTICUT, USA — The Connecticut Department of Public Health, in partnership with pediatric providers from Connecticut Children’s and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, is reminding parents to take precautions against respiratory viruses this fall. This includes not only COVID-19, but also influenza and a virus some may never have heard of before–respiratory syncytial virus—also known as RSV.

“RSV made an early impact over the summer in Connecticut, and that could be a sign of things to come this winter,” DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, said in a release. Juthani is also an infectious diseases specialist.

RELATED: Connecticut Children’s sees uptick in RSV cases

RSV causes 2.1 million outpatient visits and 58,000 hospitalizations annually in children under age 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have seen more RSV infections at Connecticut Children’s than usual for this time of year,” said Juan Salazar, MD, physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children’s and a pediatric infectious disease specialist. “This is likely because safety measures relaxed over the summer and people started getting together again. Similar to COVID-19 and the flu, RSV spreads very easily through mouth and nose droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. It can also survive on surfaces, infecting someone who touches a contaminated surface.”

RELATED: Cold weather virus in summer baffles doctors, worries parents

“For the majority of babies and infants, RSV usually causes milder symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, cough, and fever. However, for some younger children, especially those born prematurely or with underlying health conditions, the virus can cause more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing,” added Thomas Murray, MD, PhD, associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. 

“RSV is a leading cause of hospitalization in the winter months in children’s hospitals, but now we are seeing it in the late summer and fall. Hospitalized children with RSV typically go home within a few days but the most serious cases can last a week or longer,” said Murray.

The spread of respiratory viruses such as RSV can be prevented through handwashing and measures such as masking, avoiding crowds, and social distancing. Fortunately, for influenza and COVID-19, vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your family. Importantly, both vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

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Soon flu activity will begin to increase across the nation and across the state. Now is also the time to get a flu shot, and a COVID-19 shot as well, if still needed. CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October. Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations can be given at the same visit, which can save a trip to get vaccinated and save vaccine recipients from an additional round of arm soreness.

“With high COVID-19 vaccination rates among people in our state eligible for the vaccine, Connecticut hasn’t had the large increases in childhood hospitalizations due to COVID-19 that some lesser-vaccinated states have experienced,” Commissioner Juthani said. “Nationally, states with lower vaccination coverage have seen more emergency department visits and hospital admissions among children. Vaccination not only protects you, it protects the people around you.”

Check with your health care provider or pharmacy to see if the flu vaccine is available at their location. For a listing of local health department flu clinics click here. To find a pharmacy near you, visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder at https://vaccinefinder.org/.

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