Appeal issued due to rise in RSV and flu infections

The HSE has warned that RSV and flu infections are circulating at very high levels. People are urged to help limit the spread by cocooning very young babies, practicing respiratory etiquette (covering coughs), and making sure all vaccines are up to date, including flu and COVID-19.

In the last week, there has been a 60 per cent increase in the number of confirmed flu cases and a doubling of the number of patients who require admission to hospital due to flu. Across our acute hospitals, our health service is managing 23 outbreaks of respiratory illness.

Dr Áine McNamara, Area Director of Public Health, Department of Public Health, HSE West and North West, says, “Most cases of RSV and flu can be cared for at home, and usually clears between two to three weeks without treatment. Stay home from crèche, school or work and ask your pharmacist for advice on medicines. However, parents and caregivers should be vigilant of symptoms, trust their instincts and always contact their GP if they are worried, especially if the symptoms get worse quickly.”

Last week also saw the highest weekly number of cases of RSV and the highest weekly hospitalisations caused by RSV in Ireland. This year has surpassed the peak of last year’s RSV surge.

Dr Áine McNamara, explains what parents can do to protect against infection, “The best advice comes back to respiratory etiquette, covering coughs and sneezes, alongside regular hand washing. All very important to limit the spread of respiratory illness. We advise people with babies, particularly very young babies, to try to cocoon them and avoid having them in large crowds, or near people with cold and respiratory symptoms. If your child is sick, keep them away from other children and vulnerable adults where possible.

It is also important to remember the free nasal spray flu vaccine is available to all children aged between 2-17 from your GP or pharmacist.”

Symptoms of an RSV infection start like a cold and can include:

· cough

· wheezing

· runny nose

· difficulty feeding or decreased appetite

· fever (temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher)

· sore throat

These symptoms usually appear in stages and not all at once.

After 4 to 5 days, babies and young children can develop bronchiolitis. Their symptoms may get worse and include:

· increased breathing (more breaths per minute)

· wheezing

· difficulty feeding or decreased appetite

· less wet nappies

These symptoms often remain for 3 to 4 days before slowly getting better. It can usually take 10 to 14 days before babies and young children recover from an RSV infection. Many babies and children may have a cough that lasts for weeks after the start of the infection. This does not need antibiotics.

Flu symptoms can also start with a cough or a cold and include:

· a high temperature – over 38 degrees Celsius

· aches and pains

· tiredness

· sore throat

· headaches

If your child has other symptoms of the flu, keep them at home for at least 5 days after their symptoms begin.

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