Pediatric respiratory infections increase in Garfield County, across state

Garfield County Public Health is reporting a rapid increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in children across Colorado, including locally.

The virus has been particularly hard on infants and children below the age of 2, Public Health officials said. 

Coupled with a growing number of cases of seasonal flu and the continued presence of COVID-19, it’s important to remember to take basic precautions and keeping up to date on flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, Garfield County Public Health Immunizations Nurse Manager Danielle Dudley said.

“We can’t always avoid every illness, but we can give ourselves the best chance possible,” she said. “We cannot stress enough, stay home when you are sick and keep your kids home when they are sick, to avoid spreading unwanted illnesses to others. Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, everyone around you will appreciate it.”

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms and is the leading cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children under one in the United States, a news release from Garfield County Public Health states. 

“Most people recover in seven to 14 days,” it states. “However, RSV can cause serious health risks, especially for infants and children below the age of 2.”

The rise in RSV infections has caused a surge in hospitalizations in the Denver metro area, putting increased strain on limited hospital capacity there.

While Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs has seen a similar surge in RSV and other pediatric ailments, the hospital has not seen the same capacity issues, Chief Community Relations Officer Stacey Gavrell said.

“Across the Valley View network we are seeing an uptick of pediatric cases of RSV in the emergency department, in-patient care and with our pediatric partners,” she said. “We are able to continue to serve these patients and are not in crisis mode.”

Valley View’s Pediatric Partners saw its busiest month in the past year, with a 20-25% increase in sick visits. RSV has been the most dominant reason for those visits, Gavrell said.

Also still in the mix are flu and the usual seasonal COVID cases. “We are trying to respond as effectively as possible, by bringing in an extra doctor and are accommodating as many sick visits as possible,” Gavrell said.

RSV Facts

How RSV spreads

RSV can spread when:

  • An infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Getting droplets that contain the virus from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Having direct contact with the virus, for example, if an infected person kisses a child’s face.
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus, like a toy or a table, and then touching your face before washing your hands.

People infected with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days and may become contagious a day or two before showing signs of illness. However, some infants and people with weakened immune systems can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing 

How to stop the spread of RSV

If your child has cold-like symptoms:

  • Keep your child home when they feel sick, even if they test negative for COVID-19.
  • Teach your child to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Practice cough and sneeze etiquette — cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, throw the tissue in the nearest garbage can, and wash your hands after you throw it away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Children with cold-like symptoms should not interact with children at high risk for severe RSV disease, including premature infants, children younger than two years of age with chronic lung or heart conditions, children with weakened immune systems, or children with neuromuscular disorders.

What to do if your child has symptoms

  • People infected with RSV typically develop symptoms within four to six days after exposure. 
  • Symptoms of RSV infection, which may appear in stages, can include a runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. The only symptoms in very young infants with RSV may be irritability, decreased activity/feeding, and difficulty breathing.
  • Children or staff at childcare centers who are ill with RSV or other acute respiratory illness (including cold-like symptoms) should remain home until they are fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications and their other symptoms have been improving for 24 hours. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) provides guidance on when a child should return to school or child care in the How Sick is Too Sick? guidance document (en español: ¿Qué tan enfermo es demasiado enfermo?

Source: Garfield County Public Health

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