On October 27, 2022, the PA Department of Health announced via their Health Alert Network that Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity is increasing in Pennsylvania and nationwide, and levels are higher than usual for this time of year (See PAHAN 668-10-27-ADV: 2022-PAHAN-668-10-27-RSV_1.pdf).
Child care providers need to be aware of this dramatic rise in RSV cases because
some children can get very sick and need hospitalization.
RSV is a virus which usually causes common cold symptoms in most children and adults. But it’s important to know that babies 12 weeks old or younger are at much higher risk for complications from RSV.
Factors that put children at risk for severe RSV infections include:
- 3 months of age or younger (due to difficulty clearing mucus from smaller airways)
- Being around children in a child care setting
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Children with a history of weakened immune symptoms, preterm birth, or heart or lung problems
Children or adults with RSV might not look sick, but could be unknowingly infecting others with the virus, as it is spread by respiratory droplets falling on surfaces and when talking, coughing, or sneezing. RSV may be spread before obvious signs or symptoms appear, much like COVID-19.
It is particularly concerning right now because the spread of RSV and other seasonal respiratory illnesses like influenza (flu) has started earlier than usual this year. We know that COVID-19 is still circulating, too. Mitigation strategies for COVID-19, like strict hand washing and sanitation practices, along with masking, can limit the spread of viral illnesses, such as RSV and flu, in child care settings.