Higher numbers of RSV in the County this year than typical.

Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 2:02 PM EST
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AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - RSV has been making headlines as many children have been getting very sick with it, including here in the County. But young children aren’t the only ones contracting the illness this year.

Dr. Stephanie Gillis, the Director of Primary Care for Northern Maine Medical Center, says “RSV does seem to be affecting older adults and older children more than it has in the past. And typically it would be just an a common cold, and we would be more worried amongst our infants and young children who might have a higher risk or a harder time clearing the mucus secretions from RSV. We always have had more risk in any patients who have underlying heart or lung disease be that young children or older adults and those who are immunocompromised. But this year, as I had mentioned earlier, when we were speaking about some of the viruses, we’re seeing, we don’t have as much natural immunity. It’s something that we haven’t really seen as much RSV in the last couple of years because of Covid and you know, if that’s because of masking or if that’s because Covid has kind of crowded out some of these other viruses, it’s hard to know exactly why. But RSV is affecting adults more this year and older children more this year than it has in the past. And I think that really is just a lot to do with our natural immunity. And it’s something also this years RSV tends to be lasting a little bit longer than it has in the past. It usually would peak around day five or so in the last several years, and then recently seems to be lasting a little bit longer. And peaking, meaning the symptoms are at their worst, closer to seven or eight days for most patients who are getting sick and lasting a little bit longer.”

Kris Doody, the CEO of Cary Medical Center, says “If you look at some of the trends from the CDC, the numbers are up, which is probably why, as you mentioned Kelly, it seems like there’s a lot more talk about it, and it’s talk across the nation, not just in Maine. I mean, it’s everywhere. The other question that I was asked not that long ago is, historically folks considered RSV an illness of children and adults can get it too, as Dr. Gillis described. And I think that seems different for folks because it was always seen as a illness that children would get and, you know, recover and actually most of the time do very well. But yeah, there are pretty significant symptoms with some of these children and adults who end up being diagnosed with RSV.”

Dr. Gillis adds, “RSV, since this is a respiratory virus, one of the biggest things to watch for is your child struggling to breathe or having a hard time breathing or doing their normal activities? And are they coughing repeatedly if they’re, you know, running and doing mild exertion? Are they having a hard time catching their breath. Are they not able to eat without having to pause to take a moment to breathe? There’s some clinical signs we can watch for, but are they really using their muscles through their chest or their belly or flaring their nostrils when they’re breathing? If ever there’s a question, my biggest key I would say is call your provider. Or if you’re not certain and you think your child’s having a hard time breathing, get them seen. It’s better to err on the side of caution, you know, we’ve all mentioned we want to try to keep the ER visits to emergencies, but if you think that your child’s having a hard time breathing, getting them seen quickly is really important.”

Doody says, “I agree with Dr. Gillis. It’s, you know, there are some telltale signs that, you know, we, in health care, notice especially with RSV, with these respiratory symptoms. But as a parent, if it just doesn’t feel right, if something just, you know, whether they’re quick, little shallow breath, they can’t take the deep breath like Dr. Gillis is describing. If something just does not seem right with this child, please notify your pediatrician. Because obviously we want to make sure we get that diagnosed and treat their symptoms. A young child, not being able to take a deep breath, could be pretty frightening. Not only for the child, but also for the parents.”

Dr. Brian Griffin, the Chief Medical Officer for Houlton Regional Hospital says, “Just based on some of the symptoms, it’s very hard to tell what they have. And in the long run, for most people it does not make a big difference. But for those in the high risk groups for complications which are elderly or people with chronic conditions, there are some treatment options for Covid and the flu that they may want to get help with. So in those certain individuals, it is worth a conversation with their provider to see if there’s something they should do.”