Numbers of the highly contagious respiratory virus hitting babies are skyrocketing, with Northland hospitals experiencing some of their highest occupancy levels to date.
Between July 1-20 there have been 278 recorded cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in Northland, compared to 38 last month.
As of July 20, Northland DHB had carried out 832 tests for the winter virus from April 1. They had returned 317 positives, with one in May, 38 in June and 278 between July 1-20.
A Northland DHB spokesperson said admissions to Whangārei Hospital's children's ward had risen 40 per cent due to RSV.
"All of our hospitals continue to be extremely busy, and although this is usual at this time of year with the increased winter demand, our hospitals are experiencing some of the highest occupancy levels we have ever had. This is incredibly tough on our staff, who are doing an amazing job under very challenging circumstances."
To help reduce transmissions, earlier this month Whangārei Hospital put temporary alterations in place for their visitor policies for the Te Kotuku (Maternity Ward), Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) and the Children's Ward (Ward 2). It restricted visitors to both parents or primary caregivers of a child during the day; and only one parent or a primary caregiver staying overnight, with no other visitors allowed, including siblings.
A small number of children had been admitted to ICU for additional monitoring before being moved back to the paediatric ward. However, this was common during winter for children with RSV-related respiratory tract infections such as croup and bronchiolitis, the spokesperson said.
RSV symptoms include cough, fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. The virus hits babies in particular, with many ending up in intensive care units or needing oxygen to help them breathe.
"Although people can get RSV at any age, older children and young adults tend to have a measure of immunity to it. We know that elderly adults can lose their immunity to RSV, and we have seen some patients with RSV infection in this age group."
There is currently no vaccine for RSV. However, parents and caregivers are encouraged to make sure their child is up-to-date with other immunisations as they can prevent infections following the RSV infection.
Immunisation is free from GPs or Hauora Clinics.
To help protect from illness and stop the spread of the virus, Northland DHB also encourages the following:
• If you, your baby or child are sick, stay home until symptoms have gone
• Stay away from people who have coughs and colds
• Wash your hands well and often
• Cough and sneeze into your elbows, carefully throw away dirty tissues
• Do not share cups, glasses or cutlery
• Practice physical distancing
• Shared toys should be washed in warm water and detergent at the end of the day, or if they are sneezed on or mouthed.
If you are concerned, seek advice from your GP or call Healthline any time for free on 0800 611 116. In an emergency always call 111. Further information can be found at northlanddhb.org.nz.