Common but potentially deadly respiratory virus on the rise

Area pediatric doctors and nurses report seeing a high volume of children with a common but potentially deadly respiratory virus in St. Joseph.

Posted: Jan 15, 2020 7:56 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Area pediatric doctors and nurses report seeing a high volume of children with a common but potentially deadly respiratory virus in St. Joseph.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) symptoms for the average healthy adult will look very similar to the common cold, said Dr. Cynthia Brownfield, a pediatrician with Mosaic Life Care.

Treatment: Dr. Brownfield, Pediatrician with Mosaic Life Care

  • There’s no treatment or vaccine for RSV currently.
    • "It’s really just about fever control and pain control."
  • If you have an infant under the age of 6 months they can only have Tylenol not IBprofun.
    • She said smoke, even if it is just on your clothes can exacerbate RSV.
    • No diffusers even if the oils are advertised as natural or homeopathic. She said the chemicals can inflame a child’s lungs.

“Most people get over it just fine, however it can cause secondary infections like pneumonia and ear infections,” Brownfield said.

The virus presents more serious health concerns for infants and elderly adults.

“When you are younger your airways are very small so when you get this mucus and this congestion, you can have an increased work in breathing or even wheezing that’s a common feature,” Brownfield said. “Elderly may develop more of a pneumonia-like picture with RSV.”

Doctors warn that RSV is very contagious and spreads easily in places like daycares.

“There’s no way to avoid it,” Brownfield said.

Doctors and nurses at the pediatric unit at Mosaic report seeing a higher number of RSV cases so far this year.

“A couple of weeks ago when I was on pediatric call our hospital was almost full in our pediatric unit and most of the cases are RSV,” Brownfield said.

They also said they have observed this year’s RSV is accompanied by higher fevers.

Dr. Brownfield’s observations mirror reports from hospitals across the U.S. Pediatricians in Ohio, Florida, New York, and other states are reporting unusually high numbers of young children admitted to emergency rooms.

We asked the health coordinator at Head Start, Ashley Meyer, what her staff is seeing this year and what precautions Head Start daycares take to help stop the spread of viruses.

More than 300 children attend one of the Head Start daycares in the area. Meyer said that unlike Mosaic, daycare children have had many flu cases but less than a handful of RSV cases so far this year.

But Meyer said her staff is prepared if things change.

Head Start staff performs daily health checks for its daycare children.

“If they come in and say, ‘she was kind of coughing this morning I’m concerned,’ we will kind of update them and do frequent assessments of the children for their health throughout the day,” Meyer said.

Additionally, Meyer said Head Start daycare officials require frequent hand washing throughout the day and daily sanitation.

“If we see a child put a toy in their mouth, it automatically goes into a sanitizing bucket and we wash it that day,” she said. “After children leave for the day, we sanitize the entire room.”

The best way to prevent the spread of RSV, according to both Brownfield and Meyer, if you are concerned about your child’s runny nose, cough, congestion, or fever don’t send them to daycare.

“If you are questioning it, they should probably stay home,” Meyer said.

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