Valley doctors seeing increase in respiratory syncytial virus cases

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Cases of respiratory illness are on the rise. Not only COVID-19 cases but also RSV, a respiratory virus.

So, Valley doctors are taking action, limiting visitor restrictions after seeing an abnormal increase in RSV cases.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually spikes in the winter and can seriously affect infants and children.

Health officials are alarmed at the unusual timing of the spike of the virus.
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Valley Children's Hospital Dr. Nael Mhaissen says he is seeing the rise in RSV numbers occur in the Summer months, rather than in December and January when they typically see these infections.

"We are used to RSV, we deal with this year to year. This isn't a new infection. Similarly, with influenza, we deal with these cases year to year. It's the timing of things and having all the stress on the healthcare system because of COVID-19," Dr. Mhaissen said.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections have increased from less than 1% to 6.3% in California during summer 2021.

So far, Valley Children's hospital has had 51 RSV cases since June 1, with 18 cases just in the last week.

In comparison to last year, VCH only had two cases during its peak season when kids were at home instead of in-person learning.

In the prior season, from November 2019 to March 2020, VCH had 528 cases.

The virus can affect any individual, however, it can cause severe illness in children less than 2 years old especially if they have high-risk factors.

Dr. Mhaissen said, "Most of the children who are school age and teenagers do not really get severe disease with RSV. It's very very unusual to see significant disease, something that requires hospital admission, for example, in that population."

Compounded with COVID, though, teens can still harbor the infection and transmit it to babies by droplets when coughing or sneezing.

Dr. Mhaissen says the symptoms for the respiratory viruses are almost similar: Cough, fever, runny nose, wheezing or difficulty breathing.

With school back in session, doctors remind parents to keep encouraging their little ones to wear a mask, social distance and frequent hand hygiene.

"I think children do belong in school. I think there is huge value in them being there physically, not just distant learning. However, there are many precautions that we can take. There are many measures that we can take to decrease the chances of them catching any of these infections," Dr. Mhaissen said.

As cases keep ticking higher, doctors at Valley Children's are keeping their visitors' policy in place.

Health officials at Sierra Medical Center in Porterville also aren't taking any chances.

SVMC will be officially declaring "RSV Season" and will begin to enforce visitation restrictions beginning Wednesday, September 1, 2021. No visitors under the age of 13 will be allowed in any of the acute care units.
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