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Spike in respiratory viruses prompts public health reminder

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MidCentral DHB is reminding parents and whānau to exercise public health measures following a recent spike in the spread of respiratory illnesses in the MidCentral region.

As is the case throughout New Zealand, MidCentral DHB is experiencing a significant increase in the number of babies and children presenting to our facilities with respiratory illnesses, which includes the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
MidCentral DHB Healthy Women, Children and Youth Clinical Executive and Paediatrician Dr Jeff Brown  said a number of these children were in high dependency care and the Child Assessment Unit had been repurposed with inpatient beds and cots to manage the additional demand.
Palmerston North Hospital was admitting between 10 to 20 babies and children each day with respiratory illnesses, which included RSV, Dr Brown said.
RSV infection is a common virus and many children experience it before their second birthday. In many cases, the symptoms are similar to a cold and can be treated at home. However, some young children become seriously ill and require hospital care.
“Each day we are also seeing similar numbers presenting with childhood respiratory illnesses but who do not need to be admitted,” Dr Brown said.
“We urge whānau and guardians to keep children at home if they are unwell with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, and also diarrhoea and vomiting.
“Children who develop respiratory symptoms at early childhood education centres should be isolated immediately and picked up by a parent/caregiver as soon as possible.”
To limit the spread of the virus, Dr Brown said centres and whānau  were reminded to continue practicing good hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing where possible, and cover coughs and sneezes.
“We encourage centres to report any suspected outbreaks of respiratory illness to our Public Health team.
“To protect our hospital patients, we are asking siblings or whānau aged 14 years or under, or anyone with a respiratory condition, to avoid visiting the Children’s Ward or the Children’s Outpatient Clinic at this time.  Children with clinic appointments should still attend.”
We also ask there is no more than two visitors per patient to the Children's Ward at any one time.
To find more about the RSV virus, visit the Health Navigator New Zealand webpage on RSV and Bronchiolitis

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