Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Friday said hospitals in Kashmir are witnessing a surge in severe Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases.
“Over the last few weeks, hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of seriously-ill RSV patients,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
Dr Hassan said young children and elderly are coming to hospitals with severe pneumonia requiring oxygen, some needing intensive care and support of ventilators to help them survive the respiratory distress.
“RSV is not new. We see it every year during winter months. RSV particularly affects young children. It can be life-threatening in infants and older adults”, he said.
“Most years, infections typically occur in the late fall and winter, often overlapping with flu season. But since last year we are seeing early surges,” the DAK President said.
Dr Hassan said RSV has taken a backseat during Covid pandemic. People were hardly exposed to the virus because of Covid precautions like masking and social distancing. Now it seems to be coming back again.
“Very young children born just before or during the pandemic had no exposure to RSV and didn’t build immunity against the virus. And now they are getting exposed to the virus and it is hitting them really hard,” he said.
Dr Nisar said the symptoms of RSV include runny nose, cough, fever and difficulty in breathing. Infants can manifest with irritability, trouble breathing and refusal to feed.
RSV is a respiratory virus and spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
“This year we have vaccine against RSV. The vaccine is recommended for people aged 60 years and older. The vaccine is also approved for pregnant women in their third trimester which will protect the new born babies’ up to six months of age. For very young children we have RSV antibody which will help prevent severe disease in this vulnerable group,” he said.
“Till we have vaccine available, people should continue with precautions like hand washing and cough etiquettes. If you are down with a cough or fever, stay home and wear a mask. Infants and very young children should be kept away from sick people,” he added.