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RSV on the rise this winter

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Aug 23, 2022

WINTER may nearly be over, but the colds, flu and viruses are not fading just yet.

We have all been advised to watch out for COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, but a very common virus that is on the rise this winter in Victoria is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
RSV, although not a new virus is the most common cause of respiratory and breathing infections in children. This virus causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages and is one of the most common causes of the common cold.

This virus commonly affects children below the age of two. Older children and adults can also contract RSV, this may involve breathing problems when there is chronic heart, immune or lung problems.

After exposure of the virus, symptoms can develop five days later and can last from eight to 15 days. Symptoms include a runny nose, coughing, wheezing, fever and occasionally an ear infection.

The infectious period for RSV is usually for eight days after the start of the symptoms. RSV is very contagious and can live on surfaces for several hours and on unwashed hands for 30 to 60 minutes.

Measures you can take to prevent the spread of RSV are to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water or use hand sanitiser, avoid sharing cups and utensils, regularly clean surfaces and items that may be contaminated with droplets using a household detergent, wash toys that are shared among children with warm water and detergent at the end of the day or after it has been sneezed upon or mouthed and let it dry naturally.

Treatment for RSV doesn’t involve antibiotics as it’s a virus, but it does involve plenty of rest and fluids. Most patients with coughs, colds and breathing problems can be diagnosed by their doctor or it can be identified by a PCR test. Since RSV presents similarly to COVID-19 and influenza, pathology providers are testing for the multiple viruses.

Distinguishing the cause of illness is particularly important in people at high risk of severe illness as the treatments and the public health measures differ along the different diagnoses.

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