MDHHS reminds Michiganders about the dangers of RSV and how to keep children safe during RSV Awareness Month

Published 11:58 am Monday, October 4, 2021

LANSING — October is RSV Awareness Month, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging everyone to take steps to prevent the spread of respiratory syncytial virus. RSV is a respiratory virus that usually peaks in the winter, however, this year RSV activity has been higher than expected across the state through the summer and early fall, which is also trending across the country.

Each year in the United States, RSV leads to approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits and 58,000 hospitalizations among children under five years of age. There are approximately 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths among adults over age 65.

RSV is highly contagious and spreads through droplets in the air after a cough or sneeze. In adults and older children, symptoms of RSV are usually mild and may mimic a cold. RSV can cause severe infection in some people, including infants and young children, older adults, people with heart and lung disease or people who are immunocompromised. Individuals with cold-like symptoms should not interact with children and other individuals at high risk for RSV.

Officials said it is important to call achild’s health care provider right away if the child has any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • A cold and is less than six months of age or at high risk for RSV.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Short, shallow and fast breaths.
  • Skin between ribs or under the neck pulls with each breath.
  • Lips, tongue or skin color turns blue or gray.
  • Trouble eating, drinking or sleeping.
  • Gets dehydrated (decreased number of wet diapers).

“It is possible to take simple measures to protect your child from RSV,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “Avoid close contact with people who are unwell, wash hands often, cover sneezes, avoid touching your face with your hands and frequently disinfect surfaces.”

Take simple steps in addition to those listed above help prevent the spread of RSV:

  • Keep children home when sick.
  • Avoid close contact actions like kissing, handshakes, sharing cups and utensils.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, toys and mobile devices.

In addition to children, older adults can be at risk for severe RSV infection. Symptoms are similar to those listed above, but can develop into serious conditions like pneumonia.

Most RSV illness goes away on its own and there is no specific treatment for RSV. If you or a loved one becomes infected, it’s important to monitor fever and pain, drink fluids and talk to your health care provider if you have any concerns.

This year, it is especially important to take precautions as COVID-19 continues to circulate and shares many similar symptoms of RSV, including fever and breathing difficulties. Michiganders are urged to see their health care provider if symptoms develop for appropriate evaluation, testing and treatment.