Guam – The Department of Public Health and Social Services has received an unusual number of reported cases of Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) on Guam recently.
Most cases have been in children under 1 year of age. RSV is a virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. It’s so common that most children have been infected with the virus by age 2.
RSV can also infect adults. In adults and older, healthy children, the symptoms of RSV are mild and typically mimic the common cold. Self-care measures are usually all that’s needed to relieve any discomfort.
Infection with RSV can be severe in some cases, especially in premature babies and infants with underlying health conditions. RSV can also become serious in older adults, adults with heart and lung diseases, or anyone with a very weak immune system (immune-compromised).
How does RSV spread?
RSV can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes into the air. Coughing and sneezing send virus-containing droplets into the air, where they can infect a person if they inhale these droplets or these droplets come in contact with their mouth, nose, or eye.
Infection can also result from direct and indirect contact with nasal or oral secretions from infected persons. Direct contact with the virus can occur, for example, by kissing the face of a child with RSV. Indirect contact can occur if the virus gets on an environmental surface, such as a doorknob, that is then touched by other people. Direct and indirect transmissions of virus usually occur when people touch an infectious secretion and then rub their eyes or nose.
Treatment for RSV generally involves self-care measures to make your child more comfortable (supportive care). Mild infections go away without treatment.
In more severe cases, hospital care may be needed or your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) to reduce fever. He or she may also prescribe an antibiotic if there’s a bacterial complication, such as bacterial pneumonia.
Keep your child as comfortable as possible. Offer plenty of fluids and watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, little to no urine output, sunken eyes and extreme fussiness or sleepiness.
Should your child become ill and show signs of no improvement in 3 – 4 days, or has difficulty breathing, please contact your family physician or go to the hospital for further medical evaluation.