SCRANTON, Pa. – Geisinger-Community Medical Center has issued restrictions temporarily prohibiting children under the age of 5 from visiting children’s and women’s inpatient units because of the seasonal increase in pediatric Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases.
“This time each year, the number of RSV infections in children rise precipitously,” said pediatrician Michael Ryan, D.O, chairman of Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. “It is typical for hospitals to initiate sibling visitor restrictions to children’s and women’s inpatient areas for the protection of our patients. This is an annual practice and is usually lifted at the end of the winter season.”
According to Dr. Ryan, young patients have vulnerable immune systems and may not be able to fight off this potentially dangerous virus. Age-related visitation restrictions serve as a protective measure to eliminate the threat of exposure from other children who are often a primary carrier.
RSV is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. While most healthy people recover from RSV infection, it can be severe in infants. Winter is an especially harsh time for this illness. In the United States, RSV infections generally occur from November to April.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children under 1 year of age. Each year, 75,000 to 125,000 children in this age group are hospitalized due to RSV infection.
RSV illness develops four to six days after exposure, typically with a runny nose and decrease in appetite. Coughing, sneezing and fever can follow one to three days later, and wheezing may also occur. In very young infants, irritability, decreased activity and breathing difficulties may be the only symptoms of infection.