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Cottage Health doctors contribute spike in RSV pediatric cases to good COVID-19 prevention practices

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Cottage Health in Santa Barbara confirmed to News Channel that lab test results show a definitive jump in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV among children and infants.

"Right now, numbers are skyrocketing," said Dr. Christophe Le Renard, M.D., the Chief Medical Information Officer at Cottage Health.

He said numbers are skewed because in some cases, parents do not bring their children in to be tested, especially if symptoms aren't severe. However, Le Renard said as of this week, the hospital is seeing numbers go up quite a bit.

"Last week of the tested, 42 were positive up from 21 the week before. Nine the week before that."

The next set of local RSV case numbers are expected next week.

Le Renard links the spike in cases of RSV and other viruses to mask-wearing and good COVID-19 prevention practices for the past two years.

"And now those kids are getting RSV and they're getting it in the form of a basic cold but the problem is, they're bringing it home to their young infant siblings who have no immunity to RSV. And that's why I think we're seeing this big bump right now."

News Channel reached out to the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) after hearing about a noticeable increase in local school absences reported. Ed Zuchelli, SBUSD Chief of Communications, responded with the following statement:

“We are committed to safe and healthy schools for all students and staff. We are closely monitoring RSV in schools since the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department issued the notice. We are always looking for trends that could impact the health of our larger community so we know how to best respond. As always, we are coordinating with health officials as those potential trends arise.”

RSV affects mostly young infants, especially those who are premature or have chronic lung issues or asthma. The elderly are also vulnerable. Severity can range from mild to life-threatening.

Symptoms are similar to the common cold. In infants, it starts with a runny nose. Le Renard said by Day 3 RSV can really settle into the lungs and deeper airways.

"Typically, RSV goes deep into the bronchioles (smaller airways) and does damage and causes lots of mucus. There's no treatment to kill off the virus," said Le Renard.

Le Renard shares the types of symptoms parents should be most concerned about.

"I would recommend parents bring their young infant children in if they're concerned at all, particularly about their breathing. If they're (young children) having a really hard time breathing, they look like they're laboring to breathe. And, usually you'll see their feedings fall off also."

In extreme cases oxygen, ventilators or IV fluids are used to support babies with RSV. Le Renard said in older children, sometimes steroid treatments can be more effective.

RSV can run for about four weeks; Le Renard said the deep cough, alone, can last up to six weeks.

Scientists have been working for decades to develop a vaccine for RSV. Drugmaker Pfizer says its vaccine in the works could be available next year.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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