Health officials with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority are reminding parents to take appropriate steps to protect their newborns and babies from colds and flus, as HSC Children’s Hospital is seeing an increase in the number of cases of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) bronchiolitis.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) using indirect immunofluorescence technique/CDC
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) using indirect immunofluorescence technique/CDC

“These types of respiratory infections can be very serious and may require hospitalization and even intensive care,” said Dr. Aaron Chiu, RSV specialist and physician with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Child Health Program and HSC Children’s.

“Babies younger than 12 months old are most vulnerable to contracting RSV bronchiolitis, which is an infection of the small airways in the lungs.”

Dr. Chiu noted that over the last several weeks a high number of young children have presented to hospital requiring admission and specialized treatment, including wearing oxygen masks or using a ventilator to breathe for them.

While RSV can occur all year round, it is typically most common during the fall and winter months. Since September 1, 2016, HSC Children’s has seen 45 cases of RSV, including 12 in the week of November 1. Several additional and common respiratory viruses have also been confirmed.

As a result, visitor restrictions are being initiated in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units at HSC Winnipeg to prevent the spread of the virus. Effective today, visitors will be restricted to parents or caregivers only, no more than two (2) people at a time.

Basic hygiene and common sense are the best methods to prevent these infections, Dr. Chiu advised.

“Keep babies away from crowded public areas like shopping malls and schools where there may be people with colds or other illnesses. Most importantly, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Frequent hand washing, especially after touching your face, your child’s face, another person who is ill, or touching things someone who is sick may have touched, is the best way to prevent spreading germs.”