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FOR RELEASE: December 6, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Health Officials Report Increase in Respiratory Virus Cases

Got a bad cough or know someone who does? There are many respiratory viruses that seem to flourish this time of year, but one in particular has Oklahoma State Department of Health officials on alert. The state health department’s disease surveillance network has noted an increase in Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.
RSV is similar to influenza in that it affects people of all ages, but especially those very young and very old, typically during the winter months. It is the most common cause of pneumonia in children under 1 year of age.

For most people, RSV symptoms are mild and indistinguishable from cold symptoms and may include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and cough. Generally, persons recover from the illness in one to two weeks. For the very young, the elderly, and persons with chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease, symptoms can be more severe and include wheezing, shortness of breath, pneumonia, and sometimes death.

Each year more than 250,000 adults and children are hospitalized as a result of RSV infection in the United States, and as many as 14,000 adults and 150 children will die. In Oklahoma, estimates are that an average of 170 adults and two children die from RSV annually.

RSV, like other respiratory viruses, is spread through coughing and sneezing. To prevent the spread, people should wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and sneezes, and avoid going to work and school if they are sick. It is especially important to avoid visiting nursing home residents or infants less than 6 months old if a person has respiratory illness.

Unlike influenza, there is no vaccine against RSV. To prevent infection in premature infants who are the most susceptible to RSV infection, physicians may consider the use of preventative medications. Since very young infants are at high risk, they should be kept away from sick children or adults. Treatment for RSV includes rest, fluids, and respiratory medications for those persons who are hospitalized.

For more information on RSV, check with your health care provider or visit this Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/submenus/sub_rsv.htm.

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