While COVID 19 infection rates remain low, the US Virgin Islands are monitoring the threat of another infectious respiratory disease which has warranted several paediatric hospitalisations in recent weeks.
According to Territorial Epidemiologist for the USVI Esther Ellis, Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV, as it is commonly known, is a matter of serious concern.
“Nationally the number of RSV cases being reported is high and paediatric hospitalisations are significantly increasing. Both VI hospitals report hospitalisations for RSV with currently 6 admissions at Schneider Regional Medical Centre and 1 admission at Juan F Luis Medical Centre”, she said.
She warned that while symptoms of RSV are typically mild, in some cases infection have been severe or led to the development of serious acute respiratory illness.
“Typically RSV affects children under 2 years old but can also affect adults. This virus usually has mild symptoms including fever, cough and runny nose. RSV is a public health concern because it can lead to Pneumonia or Bronchitis requiring hospitalisation or cause severe complications for people with weakened immune systems”, she said.
Ellis went on to explain that while RSV is not a novel virus, to date there has been no vaccine released in its interest.
As a result, persons are being urged to ensure that they are protected against other viruses for which vaccines are available to mitigate the possibility of co-infection.
“It is important to note that COVID 19, Influenza and RSV all have similar symptoms, and it is possible to become infected with more than one of these respiratory illnesses at the same time. When co-infections occur, the outcome can be more severe. Today there is no vaccine for RSV but there are effective vaccines for both COVID 19 and Influenza. That is why the VI DOH recommends that everyone, especially children ages 6 months and older get vaccinated against influenza and COVID 19”, she said.