Public health alert sounded over spike in RSV cases in Mid West

A PUBLIC health alert was issued on Wednesday (December 13) due to the highest weekly incidence of confirmed respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) being recorded in the Mid West region.

The Limerick-based Public Health Mid West said it had recorded 87 confirmed cases of RSV on the week of December 3, the “highest weekly incidence” since the start of October.

It said it was “concerned about its possible serious outcomes on young children and older and vulnerable adults, and its associated impacts on the health service during this festive season”.

Dr Barry Linnane, paediatric respiratory consultant at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), said while the numbers of infants being assessed or treated at UHL for RSV reflected the national trend, which has started rising in recent weeks, he and his colleagues “are bracing ourselves for a significant surge in numbers in the coming weeks”.

Public Health Mid West said recent data “shows a substantial increase in RSV cases since the week of October 22, with a particular surge since November 26”.

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The public health team also warned that it appeared from the current trends that “RSV has yet to peak in the Mid West region”.

Throughout most of October there were less than five cases of RSV recorded, by the end of November figures had soared to 80 weekly cases.

The health body urged parents to be vigilant of their children’s symptoms, “as we are seeing a significant increase in child hospitalisations”

Dr Kenneth Beatty, specialist in public health medicine, said he was “particularly concerned about the level of RSV among young children in the community, and the severe pressure it is causing on our hospitals”.

“It’s important that if your children are unwell with symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, and fever they do not attend their crèche until the symptoms have passed”.

Public Health Mid West stated: “RSV is mostly mild in adults and older children but can cause bronchiolitis in very young babies. This may lead to breathing and feeding difficulties and can result in hospitalisation.”

It said RSV is “a highly contagious respiratory disease”, which generally occurs between October and April, with cases peaking in December, and warned “last week saw the highest ever weekly number of cases of RSV and the highest ever weekly number of hospitalisations caused by RSV in Ireland and has surpassed the peak of last year’s RSV surge”.

“It can also be serious and life-threatening for older adults, individuals with weak immune systems, and children who are premature or have chronic heart and lung disease.”

As of December 2, there had been at least 260 winter cases of RSV in Limerick (123), Tipperary (82), and Clare (55).