New Brunswick Tribune

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The number of patients with non-COVID respiratory viruses seen at CHEO

Key sentence:

  • The most ever for that month and much more than double the earlier high of 15 cases.
  • According to Dr Lavoie, RSV affects children more than adults because they have had less exposure in their shorter lives. 

CHEO, Eastern Ontario’s children’s hospital, says it’s detecting an early return of a respiratory virus that prompted a record number of patient admissions in October but is unconnected to COVID-19.

In October, CHEO hospitalized 37 patients with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the most ever for that month and much more than double the earlier high of 15 cases.

RSV is a virus that can cause catastrophic infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis. Wheezing, tiredness, and a persistent cough are all common symptoms.

The hospital generally doesn’t see this many RSV patients until the winter months, according to Tammy DeGiovanni, vice-president of clinical services at CHEO.

“Typically, we’ll have two to three cases in October,” she said. “We’re seeing that level this early in the year, which is unusual.”

The increase in RSV cases at CHEO is part of a larger trend that began this summer as pandemic precautions were eased.

More human interaction, according to DeGiovanni, could be a factor in the enhanced RSV transmission, especially after a winter when pandemic measures would have limited the virus’s spread.

“We’ve all been masking, washing our hands thoroughly, and not mixing as much as we did in previous years,” she explained.

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A lower level of exposure equals a lower level of immunity.

Less exposure, according to Dr Pascal Lavoie, a paediatrician and clinician-scientist at the B.C. In Vancouver, the children’s Hospital Research Institute means people are losing antibodies to specific viruses, such as RSV.

“Our immunity to some viruses has waned simply because our protection against particular viruses is contingent on being repeatedly exposed,” he explained.

According to Dr Lavoie, RSV affects children more than adults because they have had less exposure in their shorter lives. According to Lavoie, the risk is significantly higher for infants whose moms have had less exposure and did not pass on antibodies during labour.

RSV patients at CHEO, according to DeGiovanni, are largely infants and toddlers who caught the virus from older siblings at daycare or a friend’s residence.

“[They] bring it home to infants who have less immunity and haven’t built it over time,” she explained.

RSV patient surges have been recorded in hospitals in B.C. and Quebec, comparable to CHEO.

According to Lavoie, it’s unclear whether more instances will emerge throughout the winter when RSV generally spreads or if the early-season rise will limit the number of cases as the population regains immunity.

“We have to remain cautious till this happens,” he remarked. “It’s going to be a rough winter if [the increase in cases] continues.”

Source from CBC

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