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RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus is currently hospitalizing children in our district. Our Public Health Nurses have put together this primer on RSV that will hopefully answer some questions.

As always, we are here to help. If you have questions about RSV, please call (308) 385-5175 for information and resources. 


What is RSV?

RSV or the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a virus that causes common cold and other respiratory symptoms, mostly in children younger than 2 years. It is most common in winter and early spring, one of the most common diseases of early childhood.

What are the symptoms?

·         Cold-like symptoms (runny nose, congestion, cough) for most children.
·         Irritability
·         Poor feeding
·         Fatigue
·         Brief period of no breathing
·         Skin or mucous membranes turn blue, usually when coughing

Respiratory problems include Bronchiolitis, Pneumonia and wheezing and asthma attack (in children who already have asthma).

·         Children with weakened immune system or heart or lung problems have greater difficultly when ill with this infection compared to healthy babies.
·         Cough from RSV often lasts as long as 3 weeks.

What are the incubation and contagious periods?

·         Incubation period: 2 to 8 days
·         Contagious period: Virus can shed for 3 to 8 days (3-4 weeks in young infants, usually beginning a day or so before symptoms appear).

How is it spread?

·         Respiratory route: contact with large droplets that form when an infected child talks, coughs, or sneezes.
·         Contact with objects contaminated by children who carry RSV.
·         RSV virus can live on surfaces for many hours and 30 minutes or more in hands.
·         Before symptoms appear, the infected person starts to shed virus that may infect others.

How do you control it?

·         Always use good hand-hygiene.
·         Teach children, teachers/caregivers to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing and coughing with a disposable tissue; or with an upper sleeve or elbow if no tissue is available in time.
·         Teach them how to remove any mucus on skin or other surfaces to prevent the spread of disease and perform hand hygiene right after using tissues or having any contact with mucus.
·         Dispose of tissues that contain nasal secretions after each use.
·         Make sure handwashing stations or alcohol base hand sanitizers are close to and encourage hand hygiene before and after activities that involves food.
·         Sanitize commonly touched surfaces more frequently during winter and early spring when outbreaks can be expected.

What are the roles of the teacher/caregiver and the family?

·         Report the infection to the teacher/caregiver for decision-making and action related to care of ill children.
·         Report the infection to the teacher/caregiver for decision-making and action related to care of ill children.
·         Alert possible exposed family and staff members to watch for symptoms.
·         Promote breastfeeding, which helps protect infants from RSV.            

Should a child with RSV be exclude from group setting?

NO, unless

·         Child presents rapid episodes of skin or mucous membranes turn blue, usually when coughing (Immediately refer a child with these symptoms to health professional)
·         The child is unable to participate and staff members determine they cannot care for the child without compromising their own health and others.

When should a child be resubmitted to group settings?

Yes, when all the following criteria have been met:

·         The child is able to participate in normal activities
·         Staff members determine they can care for the child without compromising others.


Additional Information:

·         RSV is a very common cause of hospitalization, especially in infants in their first 12 months after birth. The infection can be fatal, especially in high-risk groups (weakened immune systems, preterm birth, heart abnormalities, long disease).

·         Almost all children are infected at least once with RSV by 2 years of age. Reinfection during life is common.

·         Certain infants and young at high risk may benefit from a monthly injection of antibody.

·         All children should be protected from exposure to tobacco smoke, and special efforts to avoid tobacco smoke on high-risk infants.

·         Children with RSV may wheeze like children with asthma; however, inhaler mediation is not effective for most children with RSV who have not previously had a diagnosis of asthma.