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Respiratory illnesses on the rise among Jackson County kids

Image courtesy Willis-Knighton Health System

Owing to a spike in viral respiratory illnesses, Jackson County health officials ask parents not to bring “acutely ill” children to schools or day care centers — even if the child tests negative for COVID-19.

Local test positivity rates for the respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, were at 21.3% last week — nearly double the statewide rate of 10.7% for the week between Nov. 28 and Dec. 4 — according to a press advisory Friday from Jackson County Health and Human Services.

Of particular concern to Jackson County Public Health is a “higher than expected” increase in infant to 4-year-old children being brought to local emergency rooms for cough, fever and sore throat.

The virus, known as RSV, is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than a year old, according to health officials. RSV is highly contagious, and typically spreads from the droplets of coughs and sneezes.

Most people typically recover within two weeks of infection, but RSV can pose serious risks for infants and older adults.

The people most at risk for severe RSV cases include premature infants, young children with congenital heart and lung disease, young children with compromised immune systems and older adults with heart and lung disease.

Local health officials issued an advisory Friday to notify clinicians, caregivers and the public about the increased RSV activity. During the advisory, health officials recommend broader tests for respiratory illnesses such as RSV and the flu if a patient tests negative for COVID-19.

Children should not be sent to school, preschool or day care if they show symptoms, and should kept away from other children while symptomatic.

In infants younger than six months, symptoms can include irritability, poor feeding, lethargy and apnea with or without a fever. In older infants and young children, the symptoms can include a runny nose and decreased appetite that develops into sneezing, fever and wheezing.

Symptoms in adults typically include runny nose, cough, headache, fatigue and fever. Adults who work in health care, child care and long-term care settings are advised to avoid reporting to work while acutely ill, even if they test negative for COVID-19.