Winter Viruses are here – RSV and Influenza

Story by – by Rosalyn Singleton, MD, ANTHC Immunization Consultant

January 12, 2012 - 2 minutes read
Servet Pellumbi gets his flu shot.

The RSV season has arrived!

YKHC clinics started seeing a few children with RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) in the YK Delta in mid-November, but the number of children with RSV has increased this month.

RSV season usually lasts for two to five months. It is a very common cold virus, especially in the YK Delta region.

In older children and adults, RSV causes a bad cold with runny nose and a cough, but in infants RSV can cause serious lung problems like bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Bronchiolitis is inflammation of the small breathing tubes, or “bronchioles” in the lungs.  Bronchiolitis results in fast breathing, cough and wheezing.

RSV is often the number one cause of winter hospitalizations for infants in the YK Delta. YK children have one of the highest RSV hospitalization rates in the U.S. Each year, up to 15 percent of  infants in the Delta are hospitalized with RSV.

Premature infants and infants with lung or heart disease are at much higher risk of being hospitalized with RSV. The highest risk infants receive a shot, Synagis®, once a month during the RSV season. Synagis® has RSV antibodies (germ fighters) that help to prevent over half of the RSV hospitalizations in these infants.

And the flu too

Another winter virus that is starting to circulate in low levels is influenza virus. Influenza (flu) usually causes fever, cold symptoms, headache, sore throat, body aches and cough.

One of the most serious complications of influenza is pneumonia. Infants, people with medical conditions like asthma or heart disease, and elders are at the highest risk of being hospitalized with influenza.

Doctors recommend that all persons, especially those at highest risk, receive influenza vaccine to decrease the risk in all.

What can families do to prevent infants from getting sick with RSV or Influenza?

  • Wash your hands before touching or holding infants
  • Keep infants away from large crowds and sick people
  • Don’t let anyone smoke around infants
  • Breastfeeding is best
  • Infants 6 months and older, children and adults should get the flu vaccine.
  • High risk infants on Synagis need to get every monthly dose on time.