• December 6, 2023

Number of kids rushed to hospital with RSV rises 473% in just 5 weeks


THE number of children in hospital with a deadly RSV has quadrupled in just over a month, official data has revealed.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a leading cause of infant mortality, killing thousands of young children each year.

There's been a 473% surge in RSV hospitalisations in under 5s


There’s been a 473% surge in RSV hospitalisations in under 5s

Fresh data from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has revealed hospitalisations of kids sick with the bug have surged by 434 per cent under fives over the last month.

Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist for the UKHSA, said the rise in cases and hospitalisations at this time of year is expected.

He said: “RSV is a seasonal virus and cases in young children typically increase from October to a peak in late November or December.”

“Surveillance this week continues to show that many young children are needing NHS assessment and care for conditions like bronchiolitis caused by RSV.”

Some 35.1 children per 100,000 of the population were admitted for treatment in the week ending November 16.

For comparison, just 6.57 children per 100,000 with RSV were treated in hospitals in the week ending October 12.

In the UK, some 30,000 babies and children under five need hospital treatment every year due to RSV.

The virus typically causes cold-like symptoms but is a leading cause of lung infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants and elderly people and increases the risk of hospitalisation and death.

RSV infection rates among those who weren’t treated in hospital have increased in the UK recently, especially among the youngest, most vulnerable age group.

However, the rate at which the infection is spreading appears to have slowed only rising by 0.2 per cent during the last week among all age groups, and falling by 3.1 per cent in those under fives.

Infections in older adults lead to about 8,000 deaths and 14,000 hospitalisations in the UK each year – more than flu during a typical winter season.

In July, Britain’s health regulator approved an RSV vaccine for adults 60 and older for the first time.

The 4 signs every parent must know

Most of the time RSV symptoms are very mild and can be managed at home.

But sometimes it can escalate, leading to deadly complications.

Naomi Watt, a respiratory nurse specialist at charity Asthma + Lung UK, said: “RSV can develop into bronchiolitis, an infection of the smaller airways in the lungs, which can be dangerous for babies, young children, and the elderly.”

In very young infants, symptoms include:

  1. Refusal to breastfeed or bottle-feed
  2. Breathing more quickly and noisily (wheezing)
  3. Seeming very tired, upset or inactive
  4. Signs of dehydration – lack of tears when crying, little or no urine in their nappy for six hours, and cool, dry skin

In older kids, signs are similar to mild cold symptoms, including congestion, runny nose, fever, cough, and sore throat.

Naomi says: “If they are showing any of these signs, seek urgent medical help.

“And call 999 for urgent help if your child is struggling to breathe, there are pauses when your child breathes, your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue, or your child is very floppy.

Asthma and Lung’s healthline is available from 9am to 5pm on Fridays, call 0300 222 5800.

How to prevent RSV

RSV season usually begins in the autumn and peaks in the winter.

Like other respiratory viruses, it’s spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze.

According to the UKHSA you can limit the spread of RSV by making sure you and your family follow preventive measures:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Stay home when you are sick


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