By GUY WILLIAMS
The number of Whakatipu babies and children hospitalised with the highly-contagious respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has eased this month.
However, public health officials say they remain watchful, with August and September usually being the busiest months for respiratory illnesses.
Lakes District Hospital operations manager Emily Nelson says it had higher than usual cases of RSV in babies and children in its emergency department last month, resulting in 12 being transferred to base hospitals since July 1.
There has been a slight drop-off in cases this month, but staff are being ‘‘extra vigilant’’ in treating respiratory illness in young people, as well as screening the symptoms of visitors and those attending its outpatients and maternity clinics, Nelson says.
‘‘We’ve been working with Public Health to connect with early childhood centres to encourage parents to keep children home from school or day care if they’re sick, to help reduce the spread of RSV.’’
Public health officials say the higher incidence of the virus is likely the result of lower population immunity because of New Zealand’s Covid isolation last year, and the increase in movement since then.
Southland DHB chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar told the Otago Daily Times last week the children’s wards at Southland hospitals and at Dunedin Hospital were ‘‘extremely busy’’ caring for children with RSV and other illnesses from late June and through most of last month.
A person infected with RSV spreads the virus in droplets when they cough, sneeze or
Most adults and older children with the virus will experience symptoms similar to the common cold.
However, Southern DHB medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack says RSV and other viral respiratory illnesses can be severe in babies and smaller children.
‘‘If they don’t get better, then please seek medical advice from a GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice,’’ Jack says.
It’s important to keep sick kids at home, cough or sneeze into elbows, and wash hands
● Families should seek urgent medical attention if their baby or child has any of the following symptoms: audible wheezing sounds, breathing very fast or having difficulty breathing, is sluggish or lethargic, not feeding well or having less than half their normal feeds, and not having a wet nappy for six hours.