Flu season has just begun and a series of seasonal respiratory infection has been raising cases of hospitalisation among kids and other age groups in US and other parts of the world. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) especially is becoming a greater cause of concern than Covid. RSV is a seasonal virus that recurs throughout the year and usually peaks in winter. While people usually make a full recovery in a couple of days, for vulnerable group like infants and elderly, it could turn serious and lead to hospitalisation. (Also read: Flu, Covid and RSV are on the rise and already burdening hospitals)
According to a study, at global level, 33.1 million episodes of RSV lower respiratory infections (ALRTI) occured in children less than 5 years in 2015. Indian studies published during 1991 to 2022 reported variable prevalence of RSV in children with pneumonia, ranging from 14% to 40% and an incidence of RSV 53 per 1,000 children per year (5.3%).
WHAT IS RSV?
“RSV is another viral infection. It’s very much similar to other viral infections of the upper respiratory tract that we get, or it’s sort of a more severe cold. The only reason we are hearing about this is because there’s been an upsurge of viral infections after the Covid pandemic has been dying down,” says Dr. Amin Kaba, Consultant Pediatrician, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.
SYMPTOMS OF RSV
“Almost all children will have had an RSV infection by their second birthday. RSV infection usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, decrease in appetite, coughing, fever wheezing. Symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once. In young infants the only symptoms may be dullness, irritability, noisy breathing, and breathing difficulties. Most RSV infections recover in a week or two, but these can be also serious, especially for young infants and elderly,” says Dr. Sunit Chandra Singhi, Head, Department of Pediatrics, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad.
WHEN RSV TURNS SEVERE
“If it’s a severe case, then child may start turning blue. Very few children need to be admitted for the same. And it’s usually very small children, children who are premature, children who have some underlying lung disease, or children who are on immunosuppressive therapy. Basically immunocompromised children are the ones who require admission or someone who’s not been able to fight the infection very well. There is no antibiotic specifically used, there’s no test actually that is usually used. We can pick up RSV by doing specialized antigen tests but most of the times the tests are not done,” says Dr Kaba.
“There is no specific treatment for RSV infection. Fever and pain are managed with paracetamol or ibuprofen, and cold medicine for runny nose. Drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (reduction of body water). In young infants below 1 year of age, RSV often involves lungs and can cause bronchiolitis or pneumonia. They need to be hospitalised because of breathing difficulty, for oxygen and IV fluids, and some need ICU care for few days for mechanical ventilation,” says Dr Singhi.
HOW TO PREVENT RSV INFECTION
“To protect ourselves from the virus, we can use face mask and avoid getting in contact with the virus. The respiratory syncytial virus is on the rise in Canada as per the recent reports that states that this virus is creating a problem and many people are getting hospitalized because of this infection. Along with Influenza and COVID this is becoming a little alarming. This virus has been in our country as well for a a long time. But the severity of this infection is not the same as compared to influenza and the COVID. Most of the infectiouns are self limiting and the symptoms may include cough, sore throat. fever and breathlessness. The most important age group children below the age of 10 years,” says Dr. Piyush Goel, Consultant Pulmonologists, Manipal Hospitals, Gurugram.