A sick baby infected with RSV receives medication via inhalation mask. (Photo by GOLFX/Getty Images via Canva)

Across the state, many communities have seen a sharp increase in the number of pediatric cases and hospitalizations related to pediatric respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus — most widely known as RSV.

During Thursday night’s Philomath School Board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday in her report to the board said the local school district is monitoring student attendance throughout this RSV surge.

On Nov. 14, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order to help give hospitals the flexibility and support needed to respond to the illnesses that have been affecting many children.

“It’s important for parents to remember that while this respiratory season is severe, there are key steps families can take to protect their young children,” Dr. Jim McCord, interim chief medical officer for Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, said in a governor’s office news release. “Be cautious with your young children around large groups of people, particularly indoors, make sure your child is up to date on flu and childhood immunizations, and everyone needs to wash their hands frequently.”

McCord added that parents should contact their primary care provider with any questions or concerns.

Samaritan Health Services said in a release on Wednesday that although RSV is getting a lot of attention in the media, the virus is common and mild for most children and adults. RSV symptoms are the same as the common cold — runny nose, cough, sneezing, fever and loss of appetite.

“By their second birthday, most children have had RSV,” Samaritan Lincoln City Medical Center Dr. Caitlyn Anglin said. “If you have a sick child at home, it is good to monitor their symptoms because sometimes RSV can cause severe disease in children under 2 years old — especially infants under 6 months old. It can also cause severe disease in older adults.”

People at high-risk include young children, in particular children under age 2, children with underlying medical conditions, people of all ages with weakened immune systems and adults 65 and older, especially those with chronic heart or lung disease.

Samaritan officials said that the same precautionary measures that were in place for COVID-19 are also effective for preventing other respiratory illnesses like RSV and the flu.

The Oregon Health Authority issued recommendations for high-risk individuals to prevent infections:

• Stay up-to-date on flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, for those who choose to be vaccinated.

• Keep children home when ill.

• Practice good hand hygiene by washing hands thoroughly and frequently.

• Keep high-touch surface areas clean and disinfected.

• Consider wearing a face covering in indoor spaces.

“I recommend getting all of your eligible family members vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19,” Anglin said. “That way you are more likely to start from a healthier place if you do encounter RSV.”

For those who do get sick, Samaritan recommends managing symptoms with proper nutrition, hydration and rest, and to use over-the-counter medicine to manage fever and pain, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if needed, but never give aspirin to children.

“Patients with RSV usually feel better within a week or two,” Anglin said. “A residual cough and nasal drainage can last for a few weeks after initial symptoms begin. It is usually not necessary to be tested for RSV. If symptoms are severe or getting worse quickly, contact your health-care provider. Warning signs that require immediate attention include difficulty breathing, breathing very quickly and dehydration.”

The governor’s office in its news release reported, “At this time, hospital emergency departments are strained. Only visit the hospital if your child shows signs of severe illness, such as if your child has trouble breathing.”

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