Cases of life-threatening kids' virus rise for 8th week – as experts urge all parents to 'be alert'

HEALTH chiefs have issued a warning to parents as cases of a life-threatening kids' virus rose for the eighth week in a row.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is common but can be fatal in young children and transform from a cold into a more serious illness rapidly.

Today Public Health England revealed that up to August 8, kids under five had been hit the hardest with infections.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said: “Children under two are at a particular risk of severe infections from common seasonal illnesses.

"If a child under two is suffering from a cold, keep a close eye on their symptoms and make sure to contact your doctor if they get a high temperature, become breathless or have difficulty feeding.

"This winter, we expect levels of common seasonal illnesses such as cold and flu to increase as people mix more and given that fewer people will have built up natural immunity during the pandemic.

“It’s important that we carry on with good hygiene habits that we’ve become used to during the pandemic, in order to protect ourselves and those around us.

"This means washing your hands regularly, using a tissue to catch coughs or sneezes and washing your hands afterwards, and staying away from others if you feel unwell.”

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is an infection of the lungs and respiratory tract.

It’s similar to the common cold but can be severe in children under a year old, especially premature babies.

They could develop bronchiolitis, an inflammatory infection of the lower airways, which can make it hard to breath. Most children have been infected with the virus by age two.

But because of the Covid restrictions, social contacts have been minimised across all age groups, meaning other viruses have not been in circulation as much.

Since lockdowns eased up over the spring and summer, cases have soared as more youngsters are now exposed to the bug.

It comes after Covid cases in children have risen, with teenagers becoming "seriously ill" and around 20 children under five admitted to hospital each day in August.

The latest NHS England data shows since the beginning of the month, more than 170 under-5s were taken to hospital with the virus in a week.

PHE found the highest case rates are in those aged 20 to 29, with children aged 10 to 19 the second highest sufferers.

Up to the end of last week they were getting sick at a rate of 456.1 per 100,000.

This week the NHS started dishing out Covid vaccines to 16 and 17 year olds, after unwell teens forced the extension of the rollout, a member of the committee advising on jabs said.

Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there had been "a couple" of 17-year-olds in that area who needed intensive care in hospital in recent weeks.

He said while most young people will only have the virus in a mild form, the vaccines will be effective at preventing serious cases.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We're going cautiously down through the ages now into childhood and it was clear that the number of cases and the number of young people in the age group – 16, 17 – that were getting seriously ill merited going forward with giving them just a first dose."

And paediatric critical care consultant Dr Ruchi Sinha told the APPG on coronavirus that children's intensive care had seen "a lot" of kids with obesity with Covid-19.

The new head of the NHS in England urged young people to get a jab, warning more than a fifth of those admitted to hospital are aged between 18 and 34.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said there is "no doubt" that the jabs rollout is having a "major impact" in keeping people out of hospital and saving lives.

Data revealed said patients in that age group made up more than 20 per cent of people on hospital wards last month, up from close to one in 20 – 5.4 per cent – at the peak of the winter wave in January.

Symptoms of RSV:

RSV, which affects most people by the age of two, has the same symptoms as a cold cold.

But more specifically it can cause your baby, or child, to have wheezing, brief pauses in breathing, vomiting after food, lower appetite and fewer wet nappies.

RSV can be severe in babies under a year old, especially premature babies.

They could develop bronchiolitis, an inflammatory infection of the lower airways, which can make it hard to breathe.

The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are similar to those of a common cold but can develop over a few days into a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever), a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

 

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