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Public Health England Alert - RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

Public Health England Alert - RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)


Health experts locally are urging parents and carers to be aware of the signs of respiratory illnesses in children with cases higher than usual for this time of year and further increases expected over the winter months. 


Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that causes coughs and colds in winter and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in children under two. In the UK, the RSV season typically begins in the autumn – earlier than the adult flu season – and runs throughout the winter. However, this year health professionals are now seeing this presenting in children much sooner.

RSV is a common childhood illness and most children have been infected with it by age 2. RSV can cause bronchiolitis. However, due to the restrictions in Covid, there have been fewer cases than normal until now because children were not attending their usual playgroups, childcare etc. and so have not been exposed to the virus as normal. As the restrictions continue to ease, PHE is closely monitoring cases of RSV. The modelling shows between 20 and 50 per cent more cases needing hospitalisation than normal.

According to the Oxford Vaccine Group and Oxford University around 30,000 children under the age of five are estimated to be hospitalised every year in the UK because of RSV. However, most of those expected to be affected by the rise in RSV this year are forecast to be three years old or younger. Because RSV and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are both types of respiratory viruses, some symptoms of RSV and COVID-19 can be similar. In children, COVID-19 often results in mild symptoms such as fever, runny nose and cough. For adults with COVID-19, symptoms may be more severe and may include trouble breathing.

Having RSV may lower immunity and increase the risk of getting COVID-19 — for children and adults. And these infections may occur together, which can worsen the severity of COVID-19 illness. If someone has symptoms of a respiratory illness, their doctor may recommend testing for COVID-19.

All the preventative measures put in place for Covid will help reduce the risk of RSV, including:-

-          Regular handwashing

-          Cover nose and mouth when coughing/sneezing

-          Keep things clean

-          Wash toys regularly

-          Don’t smoke – babies who are exposed to smoke have a higher risk of getting RSV and potentially more severe symptoms

Parent education:


Professionals resource:


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