As Maine hospitals struggle under an overwhelming number of pediatric RSV cases, medical leaders are asking parents to take steps to prevent their children from getting sick.

What is RSV?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common respiratory illness that, for most people, will make them sick with cold symptoms, but is not dangerous. In babies and toddlers, however, it can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia. There's no known cure for the virus, other than supportive care like over-the-counter cold remedies. But for babies and toddlers, hospitals can provide fluids, oxygen, and more advanced respiratory care, if needed.

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Why Are Hospital Officials Concerned?

 

Right now, there are so many cases of RSV in young children that hospitals are being forced to take extra measures. At the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Portland's Maine Medical Center on Friday, all 87 staffed pediatric beds were full. Other pediatric patients had been moved to the emergency department. As of Friday, the 37 staffed pediatric beds at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor were 97% full. They have started moving children with non-respiratory conditions to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, in order to separate them from the RSV patients.

Is It Contagious and How Can We Protect Ourselves?

RSV is very contagious and so hospital officials are taking these measures to not only care for their respiratory patients but also to protect their other pediatric patients from becoming infected. On Friday, Maine's hospital leaders joined forces to urge parents to protect their children, as well. Avoiding RSV involves the same protocols as with the flu or Covid-19 since the virus is carried through droplets.

They advise the following measures to protect children and adults:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Sanitize community surfaces like doorknobs
  • Avoid close contact with others, like kissing or sharing eating and drinking utensils
  • Stay home if you're feeling sick

Symptoms of RSV include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in Appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing

In infants, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased appetite, and trouble breathing. Anyone who thinks they, or their child, may have RSV should seek medical attention.

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