RSV illness ramping up in the Valley - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

RSV illness ramping up in the Valley

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Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 2:40 pm | Updated: 9:19 am, Sat Dec 3, 2011.

The sniffles, runny nose and cough going around your home may be a cold, but recent numbers also show RSV is ramping up in the Valley.

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a respiratory illness that can be dangerous to very young children, especially premature babies, said Jessica Rigler, acting office chief for the office of infectious disease services at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

RSV looks just like a cold and may, or may not, come with a fever. And like a cold, there's no general vaccine available and there's really not a treatment.

"Really what we recommend is rest, drinking fluids. Nothing treats a virus. It's more of a waiting game," Rigler said.

Antiviral drugs can be used for very at-risk kids, she said, but they are pricey.

The number of RSV cases in Arizona jumped from 14 (in a two-week period) reported by the state in its Nov. 12 report to 19 in a single week in its Nov. 19 report. Only five were reported Wednesday, but it's typical to have a decrease due to the Thanksgiving holiday, Rigler said.

Because the virus causes the body to produce an increase in mucus, little children who don't know how to blow their noses or can't cough well are at risk. Of the 50 cases reported to the state since the start of the flu season, 100 percent have been in children ages 4 and younger.

Respiratory viruses can lead to secondary bacterial infections (like ear infections) or bronchiolitis and pneumonia, she said.

"To avoid RSV, the best course of action would certainly be to wash your hands, to stay away from people who are sick if they're noticeably coughing or sneezing, but really to be very conscious about what you're touching before you put your hands in your mouth or touch your eye or nose," she said.

RSV can live on surfaces for several hours. Baby toys should be washed often.

Sick people, including adults, should stay home, too, she said.

RSV cases tend to peak in late January or early February, much like the flu.

As far as flu cases in Arizona, there haven't been any reported to the state so far. In recent years, cases have popped up before now. But health officials say this year is appearing to be more "normal," with influenza likely showing up in early December, Rigler said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or

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