The fight against RSV in schools resembles the fight against COVID-19

The fight against RSV in schools resembles the fight against COVID-19

The fight against RSV in schools resembles the fight against COVID-19

Schools are bracing for another winter of mass illness as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continues to rise among children, requiring precautions that mirror those seen during COVID-19.

Facilities with younger children such as daycares and pre-K programs are facing a potential “triple epidemic” of RSV, COVID-19 and the flu this season.

In most adults and older children, RSV causes cold- and flu-like symptoms that go away in about a week. However, younger children, especially infants and young children who have not been exposed to the virus, are at high risk of developing severe disease.

Kindergartens and classrooms are known to be carriers of pathogens such as RSV, a virus for which there is currently no vaccine.

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The fight against RSV in schools resembles the fight against COVID-19

However, educators are well trained in the necessary precautions to combat RSV, which are similar to those taken during the peak of the pandemic.

A big part of keeping children safe is clear communication between educators and parents, said Shannon Robinson, director of health and nutrition at Bright Beginnings, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit child care organization.

“It’s just about continuing to educate our parents and allowing them to ask questions that they may have, because a lot of the information is new to parents and they don’t really understand exactly what’s going on,” Robinson said.

Bright Beginnings publishes a weekly leaflet in its parent newsletter about precautions for COVID-19 and RSV, providing information on what symptoms to look out for, what precautions are recommended and when to take children to the doctor.

“Constant communication with early prevention is critical to the fight we’re in right now trying to reduce RSV cases,” Robinson said, noting that they’ve had five to six confirmed cases this year compared to 20 to 30 cases last year.

It is possible that the children’s immune system is better this year since “last year there were many children who were in school for the first time”, she added.

In addition to relaying symptoms, childcare facilities must also have strict standards for when children should stay home.

“I know that most care providers assure parents that they will not accept a child with any symptoms into their program, which is difficult to do. Parents have to go to work, but that’s the number one line of defense,” Cindy Lehnhoff, director of the National Child Welfare Association, told The Hill.

In addition to the restrictions on childcare providers, Lehnhoff stressed that parents should be “very, very aware” of the facility they are taking their children to, asking providers questions about hand-washing policies, disinfection regimens and diets.

Major U.S. school districts told The Hill that while they are not prescribing mitigation methods, they are encouraging parents, teachers and students to return to practices that became common during the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hand washing, sanitizing toys, keeping kids home when they’re sick — and clear communication between parents and educators — are all considered key to keeping kids safe this winter.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) admitted in November news she was experiencing “an extremely high rate of respiratory infections among children”.

“Unfortunately, there has been a tremendous impact on our hospital emergency departments,” the district, one of the largest in the country, said in a statement.

Children’s hospitals across the country are facing shortages of beds and staff amid this current respiratory virus season. Many resorted to using emergency room beds as their wards filled up.

Taking a cue from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the school district encouraged parents to remind their children about proper hygiene, to consider wearing masks while indoors and to get flu and COVID-19 shots.

The only available treatment for RSV is monoclonal antibodies, which are usually reserved for extremely high-risk cases as a proactive measure.

Both Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools issued similar recommendations this season, but stopped short of issuing direct orders.

Even in non-traditional educational settings for students, precautions are taken against RSV.

Erica Phillips is the executive director of the National Association for Family Child Care, an organization focused on family child care programs that include small groups of children in the home environment.

She said family child care educators take the same steps as traditional schools and daycares. And despite the anxiety and concern about circulating viruses, Phillips expressed confidence that childcare providers are up to the challenge.

“Family child care educators have become masters at this over the past nearly three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.


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