Rise in RSV infections leads to call for mandatory mask-wearing

Public Health Medicine Consultant Dr Marie Casey

WITH a surge in viruses recorded in the mid-west region where people are being treated for more than one infection, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called for stronger public health advice around mandated mask-wearing.

Limerick public health experts have confirmed that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continues to circulate widely in the community, after nearly 300 cases were recorded in the past four weeks across Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary.

“While RSV mainly affects children up to four years of age, we have seen a noticeable increase in infections in adults. Continued, sustained socialising in the lead up to Christmas, and household gatherings during the holidays is likely to have led to this wave of infection,” Mid-West Public Health posted on social media.

“If you have symptoms of a cold or flu, do not socialise or attend work until you are feeling well, or are symptom-free for 48 hours. We are expecting to see increases in respiratory diseases, which will place further pressure on our health services.”

Mid-West Public Health consultant Dr Marie Casey told RTÉ Radio One that it was an unprecedented winter season due to the increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), large numbers of flu cases and Covid-19.

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“This obviously makes it very challenging for the local health services and also is increasing the amount of sickness in the community. There are high numbers of all the different types of infection at the same time, and that obviously is putting increased burden on our region.

“We’re also seeing that people are infected with a number of infections as well, so not only having one virus, but maybe having two or even three. Everything is coming at the same time. A bit of a perfect storm of infections,” Dr Casey said.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the Chief Medical Officer needed to issue stronger advice on mask-wearing to the public.

“It is or view that it is the responsible thing for policymakers and Government to do at this vital juncture when hospitals are not coping and people’s lives are at a higher risk.

“We know that there is a surge in the spread of RSV, particularly in the Midwest. Our hospitals, especially those in the Midwest and on the Western seaboard, cannot sustain additional pressure from avoidable illnesses,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

“It is time for stronger advice on simple and inexpensive measures such as mask-wearing and hand-washing.

“It shouldn’t be this difficult to issue strong advice in this regard when we are being warned about rising cases of flu, RSV and new Covid variants,” she added.