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Contagious virus surges

Wairarapa Hospital in Masterton. PHOTO/FILE

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

Wairarapa is experiencing a surge in a common virus known to cause respiratory infections.

Respiratory syncytial virus [RSV] is a frequent cause of the common cold, often occurring in winter.

As a result of the surge, Wairarapa Hospital is asking parents not to bring babies and children to visit patients.

Spokeswoman Anna Cardno said RSV could affect people of all ages, but babies and children were most at risk.

“It can cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under a year-old.

Children with RSV are usually infectious [able to pass the virus on to others] for eight days from the start of their symptoms,” she said.

“People presenting to ED [emergency department] will be asked to wear a mask, and no one should visit the hospital if they have flu-like symptoms. If you need urgent care, you should still come to ED, but you won’t be allowed to have extra people with you – just one support person, should you need one.”

Women in labour could have their partner or support person with them, but no siblings would be permitted to visit.

The virus was spread either through direct contact or by being coughed or sneezed on by someone infected.

It was very contagious and could live on skin and hard surfaces for a long time.

“It can be difficult to stop the spread of RSV, but practising good hand hygiene will help avoid passing any virus onto others,” Cardno said.

“Due to high rates of illness, the hospital is very full and some patients may be cared for in alternate ward space while we manage through this high demand.

“If you have a sick child, please do what you always do. Keep them home and call Healthline 0800 611 116 or your GP. If their condition is urgent, call 111 or bring them into ED.”

Patients with flu-like symptoms were being screened for RSV.

DHBs throughout New Zealand were experiencing a surge in the number of babies and children presenting with respiratory illnesses, including RSV.

Neighbouring MidCentral DHB paediatrician Dr Jeff Brown said Palmerston North Hospital was admitting from 10 to 20 babies and children each day with respiratory illnesses.

“We urge whanau and guardians to keep children at home if they are unwell with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, and also diarrhoea and vomiting,” Brown said.

“Children who develop respiratory symptoms at early childhood education centres should be isolated immediately and picked up by a parent/caregiver as soon as possible.”

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