PARENTS should be on the lookout for a potentially deadly but also common bug that’s on the rise among kids this winter, experts warn.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an infection of the chest that affects infants and children under two years of age.
The bug usually only causes mild cold symptoms in children.
But in some cases, the virus can be deadly and lead to pneumonia, bronchiolitis and asthma in both children and adults who survive, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said.
Cases of the bug, which infects the lungs, have skyrocketed recently, especially among children under five, according to the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Professor Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, told Express.co.uk: “RSV is a leading cause of hospitalization in children and the virus kills more than 100,000 children worldwide each year.
“That is more than 50 times as many children as those who died of Covid during the pandemic.
“It’s a much bigger threat to young children than Covid or seasonal flu.”
He added that RSV is highly contagious and the majority of children experience RSV infection before the age of two.
It’s not clear that its spread can be suppressed without enforcing highly disruptive measures, he said.
Prof Balloux added: “There is hope that hospitalizations and deaths of RSV children will decrease in the future as new RSV vaccines are soon rolled out.”
Cases of the virus in the UK are currently highest in children under five, data from the UKHSA show.
The number of positive tests rose 9.2 percent in the week ending Nov. 13, and experts have warned people to steer clear of little ones if they feel unwell.
The early symptoms of the disease are similar to the common cold and include:
- to sneeze
- A runny or stuffy nose,
- A cough
- A high temperature
- Breathe faster
- Finding it difficult to feed or eat
- Noisy breathing
- become irritable
According to the guidelines, symptoms are usually worst between days three and five of the bug, with the cough getting better within three weeks.
If you are concerned about any of your child’s symptoms, talk to your GP.
You should always call 999 in the event of an emergency.
RSV cases are higher than normal for this time of year, as are cases of other bugs, including the flu.
That’s because Covid lockdowns, with kids staying at home, prevented RSV from circulating as usual.
In a report from the Academy of Medical Sciences, virus experts said the UK was heading for a “deadly triple mix of Covid-19, flu and the respiratory virus RSV”. [this winter].
“This could push an already depleted NHS to breaking point this winter unless we act now,” it added.
Dr Conall Watson, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA said RSV cases are continuing, which is typical for this time of year, especially in young children.
“For children under 2 years old, RSV can be serious – especially for infants and premature babies. Use a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes and wash your hands afterwards to reduce the spread to the most vulnerable.
“Never smoke near a baby or visit babies when you are sick. If you are concerned that your child has cold symptoms with unusual breathing or difficulty eating, contact your GP or NHS 111.
“If your child appears seriously ill, trust your judgment and get emergency care,” Dr Watson added.
There are currently no available treatments or a cure for RSV.
But after decades of stalled progress, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced last week that its new RSV vaccine is 82 percent effective at preventing infant hospitalization, bringing hope to parents around the world.
Dr. Chrissie Jones, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the University of Southampton, says the jab is “an absolute game changer”.
She says: “If this vaccine is approved by regulatory authorities, it would have a substantial impact on hospital admissions for RSV disease.”