November 2, 2022

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Cases on the Rise in PA

The PA Department of Health (PA DOH) has announced that Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity is increasing in Pennsylvania and nationwide, and levels are higher than usual for this time of year.

About RSV

RSV is a major cause of severe lower respiratory infections. Anyone can be infected, but RSV most often causes serious illness in infants, young children and older adults.

Patients with RSV infection typically present with fever, cough, wheezing and runny nose. The symptoms might be atypical especially in very young children and infants younger than six months where symptoms of irritability, lethargy, and poor feeding may be present.

Information for Child Care Providers from OCDEL

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) sent an announcement for child care providers about RSV. Factors that put children at risk for severe RSV infections include:

  • Three months of age or younger (due to difficulty clearing mucus from smaller airways)

  • Being around children in a child care setting

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke

  • Children with a history of weakened immune symptoms, preterm birth, or heart or lung problems

Children or adults with RSV might not look sick, but could be unknowingly infecting others with the virus, as it is spread by respiratory droplets falling on surfaces and when talking, coughing, or sneezing. RSV may be spread before obvious signs or symptoms appear, much like COVID-19.

Recommendations from the DOH

The spread of RSV and other seasonal respiratory illnesses like influenza has started earlier than usual this year. Mitigation strategies for COVID-19, like strict hand washing and sanitation practices, along with masking, can limit the spread of viral illnesses, such as RSV and flu, in child care settings.

PA DOH recommends:

  • Individuals with respiratory symptoms should stay home while ill, especially those who work in child care, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19 to prevent exposing vulnerable and high-risk groups to RSV.

  • Parents and caregivers should keep young children with respiratory illnesses out of child care, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19.

  • While there are no vaccines yet to prevent RSV infections, individuals should be vaccinated against seasonal influenza and COVID-19 to help protect persons six months and older, especially individuals with high risk for complications of respiratory infections.