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The original item was published from 10/25/2022 10:39:21 AM to 1/1/2023 12:00:03 AM.

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Health Department

Posted on: October 25, 2022

[ARCHIVED] Media Release Rowan County Public Health - October 25, 2022

For Immediate Release


Public Health Information

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Phone: 704-216-8859

RSV: When It's More Than Just a Cold

Almost all children get Respiratory Syncytial Virus, most commonly known as RSV, at least once before they are 2 years of age. For most healthy individuals, RSV is just a cold. However, for some children and older adults, they can get really sick.

RSV is one of the many viruses that can cause a respiratory illness. This virus usually occurs in the late fall through early spring months. However, with the preventative measures we have taken with COVID-19, it has greatly lowered the transmission of many respiratory viruses. As a result, our immunity levels are down, and our country is currently seeing a dangerous number of cases of RSV among our children and even among some of our older adults. As of this past weekend, over 70% of our pediatric hospital beds in the United States were full due to the surge in respiratory illnesses. 

 Typically, RSV causes a cold, which may be followed by bronchiolitis or pneumonia and last an average of 5-7 days. Oftentimes, infants that are at a higher risk for severe RSV infection include:

  • Infants 12 weeks old or younger at the start of RSV season
  • Premature or low birth weight infants (especially those born before 29 weeks gestation)
  • Infants with chronic lung disease due to prematurity
  • Infants with certain types of heart defects
  • Infants with weak immune systems due to illness or treatments
  • Additional risk factors for severe RSV infections include having siblings, a mother who smoked during pregnancy, exposure to secondhand smoke in the home, history of allergies and eczema, not being breastfed, being around children in a childcare setting, and/or living in crowded living conditions.

RSV symptoms are typically at their worst on days 3 through 5 of the illness. However, you should call your pediatrician right away if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing, flaring of the nostrils, head bobbing with breathing, rhythmic grunting during breathing, belly breathing, tugging between their ribs, and/or tugging at the lower neck, and/or wheezing
  • Symptoms of dehydration (fewer than 1 wet diaper every 8 hours)
  • Gray or blue color to tongue, lips, or skin
  • Significantly decreased activity and alertness

It is important to realize that RSV spreads just like a common-cold virus―from one person to another. It enters the body through the nose or eyes and can result with any direct contact with the following things:

  • Direct person-to-person contact with saliva, mucus, or nasal discharge.
  • Unclean hands (RSV can survive 30 minutes or more on unwashed hands).
  • Unclean objects or surfaces (RSV can survive up to 6 hours on surfaces, toys, keyboards, doorknobs, etc.).

 Symptoms can appear 2 to 8 days after contact with RSV. However, according to the CDC, people infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days. Some infants and people with weakened immune systems can even be contagious for as long as four weeks, even if they are not showing symptoms.

Keep in mind, children and even some adults, especially older adults that live in long term nursing facilities, can get RSV multiple times–even during a single season. However, it is important to note that repeat infections are oftentimes less severe than the first bout with this illness. According to the CDC, annually RSV causes about 58,000 hospitalizations are among children younger than 5 years old and 177,000 hospitalizations are among adults 65 years and older.

Fortunately, in the United States, only about 2% of children with RSV will actually require a hospital stay. Those children may need oxygen to help with breathing or an (intravenous) IV line for fluids. Most of these children can go home after 2 or 3 days. Rarely, does a child suffering from RSV need to be placed in a pediatric intensive care unit.

There is a monoclonal antibody treatment that may reduce the risk of severe RSV infection in some high-risk infants. Your pediatrician should let you know if your baby is a candidate for this type of treatment. Currently, there is no specific treatment for RSV infection, although researchers are working to develop vaccines and antivirals for this illness. In the meantime, the following things are recommended to protect your children and/or any older individual within your family:

  • Make sure all eligible individuals within your family get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available! 
  • Keep your children up to date on their immunizations.  Also make sure to get vaccinated with Tdap―to protect against whooping cough. This is especially important for adults who are around your infant—new parents, grandparents, babysitters, nannies, etc. 
  • Limit your baby's exposure to crowds, other children, and anyone with colds. Keep them home from school or childcare when they are sick and teach them to cover their coughs and sneezes.
  • Disinfect all objects and surfaces in your home regularly and avoid exposing your child to smoke from tobacco or other substances.
  • Breastfeed and/or use a breast pump to access your breastmilk if you can. Research has found that breastmilk has unique antibodies that help prevent and fight infections within your child.

In closing, if your child or an elderly member of your family begins to have breathing problems, such as wheezing, coughing, or fast breathing, please seek medical attention. Also, if their skin or lips turn blue or gray, it is imperative that you contact 911 immediately.



 PIO Contact:
Amy Smith

Download Media Release COVID-19 - October 25, 2022 (PDF)

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