Currently, RSV, a.k.a Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is taking a toll across the country and has been deemed ‘particularly bad‘ this season by health experts. Next to the flu, RSV is the cold weather disease to worry about as the virus is spreading in surprising numbers this year.
Each year, the Center for Disease Control estimates that RSV leads to an average of, “2.1 million outpatient visits among children younger than 5 years old, 57,527 hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old, 177,000 hospitalizations among adults older than 65 years, and 14,000 deaths among adults older than 65.” If you assumed that this illness primarily affects the very young and the elderly just by reading that, you are correct. However, RSV can also affect even the most healthy adult.
Because you probably have senior citizens and babies who visit your facility, it’s worth taking a few minutes to learn about RSV. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about this common yet unpleasant virus to keep your business, employees, and customers safe.
WHAT IS RSV?
RSV is an abbreviation for Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Babies and children contract RSV at very high rates as outbreaks are very common in small group settings like classrooms and childcare facilities. By the time a child turns 2 years old, they will most likely have been infected at least once. RSV is classified as a virus so while it’s tempting to ask for antibiotics to treat it, they are of no use to fight this infection.
This virus spreads quickly via bodily fluids and contaminated objects, similar to the flu. Air droplets from talking or coughing are enough to infect a person. RSV can live for hours on hard, non-porous surfaces and can survive for a little over a half-hour on hands. Given this information, it’s easy to imagine how something as innocent as coughing and then touching a door handle or sneezing without covering your mouth could spark an outbreak. Secondary infections from RSV can also occur as a result of complications. These include pneumonia and middle ear infections, and even asthma, which can develop later in life.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
When an individual contracts RSV, symptoms will appear between two to five days after contracting the virus. In the case of babies and small children, RSV will appear to be the common cold at first. For children who are older, wheezing coughs may be the first indicator that something is wrong.
RSV quickly develops into an acute, painful, and miserable upper respiratory infection. Soon after, the virus can begin to look like the flu. Symptoms include a runny nose, high fever, coughing, trouble breathing, sore throat, loss of appetite or trouble drinking, rapid and shallow breathing, and overall malaise.
If symptoms don’t improve within a few days or if they get worse, or if new symptoms develop, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention. RSV can be a confusing virus because it mimics the symptoms of both the common cold and influenza while also leading to many secondary infections like ear infections, sinus infections, and pneumonia.
Diagnosing and treating it can be very difficult as the cold and flu are viruses that only go away with proper care and rest, while secondary infections are generally bacterial and require medical attention. When in doubt, call your physician.
HOW DOES RSV SPREAD?
RSV typically spreads to babies and amongst kids because they lack the common hygiene practices that most adults and older children follow. Because it spreads quickly through bodily fluids, sharing toys, equipment, and surfaces, this makes daycares and classrooms ideal environments for this virus to spread. Something as simple as sneezing can cover a desk, toy, or table with RSV germs that can live on hard surfaces for hours, waiting to infect the next person.
Often, infected children will bring the virus home with them to share it with their parents. Worldwide, the World Health Organization has estimated that somewhere around 60,000 children under the age of 5 die because of RSV. For tips on how to sanitize and disinfect toys in your childcare or daycare facility, click here.
ERADICATING RSV IN YOUR FACILITY
The last thing you want this year is for someone to contract RSV at your facility. With the unexpectedly high levels of infection this year, being linked to an RSV outbreak can be bad for business.
One simple step to get ahead of this quick-spreading virus is to set up a strategic cleaning schedule focused on sanitizing and disinfecting. If your facility sees many young children or elderly people visiting then this is extra crucial for you. These people are at the highest risk of contracting RSV and diligent, consistent cleaning is the best way to keep it from spreading from a surface to someone visiting your business.
Lastly, be sure to use EPA registered disinfectant wipes to destroy the RSV virus on surfaces in your facility. Make sure the product’s kill claim has RSV listed as a pathogen that it can eradicate.
SIMPLE PREVENTION TIPS
If you are sick, stay home. Do not spend time around children or the elderly. If your children are infected keep them at home, too. This simple step can be difficult for some but it will give you the time to heal while preventing spreading the disease to others. Don’t return to work or school, or go out to public places like the grocery store until you’ve been recovered for at least 24-hours.
Don’t forget that good hygiene is the golden rule for a healthy life. Make a habit of washing your hands well after you use the restroom, when you cough or sneeze, before and after you eat, and even when you get home from being in a public place.
Be diligent about using hand sanitizer, especially when you come into contact with high touch surfaces like door handles and shared surfaces like reception desks, elevator buttons, and communal tables. Remember that covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze can help prevent the spread of viruses significantly as RSV and influenza can both spread up to six feet from an infected person through airborne water droplets alone.