There are colds and there is influenza, and then there is something known as RSV. Respiratory syncytial virus can be a major cause of respiratory illness in young children.
The virus causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages. In adults, symptoms appear similar to a common cold: stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, mild headache, cough, fever and a general feeling of being ill. But RSV infections can lead to other more serious illnesses in babies and children with immunity, lung and heart diseases.
The virus is highly contagious and can be spread easily when a person coughs or sneezes. Because it can live on surfaces, the infection can spread rapidly through schools and child-care centers.
"It's really important to remind your children to wash their hands," said Tonia Bruess, St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center's public relations coordinator.
Whether parents know it at the time or not, almost all kids are infected with RSV at least once by the time they are 2 years old.
Epidemics of RSV infections often occur from late fall through early spring. Respiratory illness caused by RSV—such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia—usually lasts about a week, but some cases may last several weeks.
"We have had a higher census month, but with various medical conditions, not just RSV," Bruess said "The beds in the hospital are not all full, (as has been rumored). However, we are in the middle of RSV season and therefore have had some pediatric RSV patients, but nothing abnormal for this time of year."
In Idaho, RSV has not been considered a "reportable" disease in the same way as influenza and West Nile Virus. Therefore doctors are not required to notify the health department when they diagnose cases, and schools are not required to notify parents. However, there is a bill before the Legislature to change that status.