The spike in RSV cases is likely because of lockdown, the HSE’s Group Lead for Children and Young People has said.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) - also known as Bronchiolitis - is a chest infection contracted by young children and babies. Most cases are mild but some patients do end up in hospital.
Between 13th and 20th November there were 731 reported cases of the virus - including 290 hospitalisations - and Dr Ciara Martin said that the numbers are far higher than they would have been in previous years.
“So for example, last season, our spike would have been about 500 as the maximum,” she told The Pat Kenny Show.
“We would have seen the number of cases and similarly hospital case numbers would have been about 250 thereabouts and then it fell.
“But this year we’re seeing much higher numbers than that.”
The pandemic played havoc with the health service in so many ways and Dr Martin believes this is just another repercussion from COVID-19.
“The theory this time and last year as well - because last year was a spike as well - is that we just have a significant cohort of children who just have not met this virus before because of lockdown and precautions taken during COVID,” she said.
“So, they wouldn’t have been in contact with other children and they wouldn’t have picked it up as a routine virus that children meet regularly.”
Similar to a cold
Dr Martin said the virus is “more or less a cold” for most children and said the symptoms to watch out for are similar.
“What do you see is a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, maybe a high temperature or maybe your child might sound wheezy,” she said.
“And they’re certainly not eating or drinking as much; they [the symptoms] are all quite non-specific but that kind of cough/cold kind of symptoms that you see.
“Particularly, in small babies because they have smaller airwaves, so their breathing rate may be up or they may not be able to finish their whole bottle.”
Most children begin to recover within four days and Dr Martin emphasised that most children do not require hospital care.
If you think your child has RSV, the HSE recommends you contact your GP.
Main image: An intensive care nurse cares for a patient suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RS virus or RSV). Picture by: Marijan Murat/dpa/Alamy Live News