MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Before school even starts, respiratory viruses are spreading among kids.
Just last month, more than 1,000 patients tested positive for infections that are not COVID-19.
Hospital staff across the Twin Cities are stretched, treating an increasing number of children with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, says Dr. Stacene Maroushek of Hennepin Healthcare.
“Since 2017, we have been seeing a newer strain of RSV that’s been circulating in the Upper Midwest that is perhaps a little bit more vigilant or a little bit more nasty,” Maroushek said.
Traditionally, RSV infects kids ages zero to 5, but this latest strain is infecting older kids during summer months — and that’s unusual for this predominately winter virus.
“A lot of adults and older kids that get it may just have a runny nose and think, ‘Oh, it’s my allergies because my nose is really running,’ and they’re really not sick otherwise, which is how it keeps spreading in a community,” she said.
Maroushek says the symptoms are similar to those of the common cold.
“But when you’re a baby, say under a year of age, you have that really runny nose, you have a fever and you have a cough with wheezing, often what we call bronchiolitis, and those kids can often have a lot of congestion in their chest which blocks up their airways and causes them difficult breathing, which means they may need to come into the hospital for respiratory support,” Maroushek said.
Especially if that child has asthma or a compromised immune system, they may need oxygen, and in extreme cases a ventilator.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics put out a policy statement that strongly recommended children that are able, age 2 and up, to wear masks, because that’s about the only thing you can do,” Maroushek said.
With the rise in COVID-19 cases in children as well, parents are urged to get their kids tested.
“We have seen a lot of more COVID in kids lately, and we’ve also seen a lot more RSV, but without the test it’s hard to tell one from the other because they’re both cold viruses,” Maroushek said.
Other tips for parents: Keep children at home if they’re sick, and frequently wash their hands.