Help keep RSV from spreading

A common winter virus called Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is currently spreading across New Zealand. The virus affects all age groups but is especially severe for babies/ pēpi and infants less than one year old. It is very infectious and can easily pass from person to person through coughing and sneezing.

What signs and symptoms to look out for

RSV has very similar symptoms to a bad cold or flu. These include:

  • a runny nose;
  • decrease in appetite;
  • coughing;
  • sneezing;
  • a fever – usually mid; and
  • wheezing or noisy breathing.

Please look out for the symptoms in children under the age of one especially, and contact your GP team or healthcare provider for advice if you are concerned.

In Canterbury: You can call your usual GP 24/7 for free advice on what to do and where to go.

On the West Coast: You can call your GP during normal hours and HealthLine (0800 611 116) after hours for free advice on what to do and where to go.

When to seek urgent health advice

Parents and caregivers should seek urgent medical advice if their baby or infant has RSV symptoms and:

  • is under three months old;
  • is breathing fast, noisily or is having to use extra effort to breathe;
  • looks pale and unwell;
  • is taking less than half their normal feeds;
  • is vomiting; or
  • has not had a wet nappy for more than six hours.

Parents and caregivers should call 111 for an ambulance if a child:

  • has blue lips and tongue;
  • has severe difficulty breathing;
  • is becoming very sleepy and not easy to wake up;
  • is floppy; or
  • has breathing that is not regular, or they pause in their breathing.

Simple things you can do to help stop the spread of RSV and other winter illnesses

  • Keep children home if they’re sick and stay home if you are not well.
  • Wash your hands often with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wear a mask or face covering on public transport or when you cannot physically distance from strangers.

Visitor restrictions at Canterbury and West Coast hospitals

RSV can be very serious for young children, newborns and vulnerable patients in hospital.

So Canterbury and West Coast DHBs request that due to the ongoing high levels of viral respiratory illness in the community:

  • Visiting is only for essential purposes.
  • Visitors should stay home if they are unwell and do not need urgent care.
  • Only one visitor will be allowed at a time per patient and no children are able to visit. A support person for someone with a disability would be in addition to the allowed visitor.
  • Visitors need to bring their own face mask or face covering to wear when visiting.

Exceptions will be made on compassionate grounds, and should be discussed with the Charge Nurse Manager.

Source: Canterbury DHB media release (9th July 2021).

Published on Friday, July 9th, 2021, under News
Page last updated: 19/07/2021

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