Respiratory Syncytial Virus off to unusually aggressive start in SWFL

The flu isn’t the only virus off to an unusually aggressive start this season. There’s another illness that could turn deadly if untreated.

North Fort Myers mom Kelly Howell and her son. (WINK News)

That illness is called Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV. It’s not a new virus, but this year in Florida, it’s affecting a lot more kids than it has in years past.

“I think it always goes around. It’s something we always have to be prepared for,” said Kelly Howell, a mom from North Fort Myers.

“Airplanes, public parks, even the doctor’s office,” she said, are places that she is extra careful with her son’s health.

“You worry about these things like everything as a parent. All you can do is as much hand washing and preventative medicine as possible,” said Howell.

All of this just to try to prevent RSV, which the below chart from the Florida Department of Health shows ranks way ahead of previous years across the state.

RSV chart (Florida Department of Health)

It usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but proves especially risky for young children and the elderly.

Cape Coral Physician Dr. Richard Boone is on the front lines of the virus, which he says they see become a little more common this time of the year.

It starts off around late fall and normally lasts until early spring. RSV season is most active in Southwest Florida from September to April.

And if left untreated, Boone says, “Usually the more severe cases ended up in the ER. They get tested and find out it’s RSV.”

But if you catch it early, treatment sprays, which open up your airways, can help.

The worst symptoms are two to four days with the virus when you’re most contagious. Minor symptoms can last as long as two weeks.

These are all reasons Howell takes steps now to keep her boy safe.

“We just try to do as much preventative medicine as possible,” she said.

While there is no cure for RSV, there is medicine to help treat the symptoms.

It’s very contagious, but if you wash your hands frequently and avoid sharing cups, you can cut down your risk.

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