The number of people infected with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is beginning to alarm healthcare officials. According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation, RSV cases have surged in Australia since the start of winter, with about 70,000 notified so far this year. In some states, close to ten times as many have been reported as at the same stage last year. Comparisons with previous years only partially indicate trends since RSV only became a notifiable disease in Australia in 2021.
RSV causes respiratory infections and presents with symptoms that, in the beginning, can be easily confused with influenza or COVID-19. All three have very similar symptoms that overlap, especially at the start. RSV is one of several hundred different viruses that can cause these symptoms.
Most cases are mild, but infection can lead to serious outcomes for some infants and the elderly, especially for immuno-suppressed or -compromised people.
RSV – what is it?
As the NSW Health website explains, respiratory syncytial virus is a fairly common virus that causes respiratory infections. It usually peaks in late autumn or winter in the Southern hemisphere.
Like influenza and the SARS-CoV-2 virus, RSV mutates frequently, meaning prior infection does not create full immunity.
RSV – who is at risk?
RSV spreads widely each winter so that most children will have had at least one infection by their third birthday. RSV can be serious and lead to severe illness among children and older adults. While certain groups of people infected with RSV (premature and infants under one year, individuals with chronic heart/lung disease, immunocompromised people, and adults over 65) are at increased risk for severe disease, the possibility of complications is a worry for all age groups.
In young children, it can cause serious lung problems, leading to pneumonia and bronchiolitis, which can require hospitalization. According to one leading epidemiologist, up to 3% of children diagnosed with RSV could be hospitalized.
Although that number may not sound too alarming, the issue does become serious if, as is now happening, there are tens of thousands of people infected with RSV. Numbers of this magnitude can easily swamp the existing facilities for pediatric beds.
RSV – how does it propagate?
Children can be exposed to RSV in school or daycare centers, bringing the virus back home. Older people then pick up the infection and, in turn, propagate it back into the general community.
When a person comes into contact with a live virus (most often through breathing in airborne droplets that have been sneezed or coughed out by an infected person or touching a hard, cool surface that the droplets have contaminated), it infects the nose and throat. It can then pass on into the lungs through the airways.
RSV can survive on hard surfaces for many hours. It will live for shorter lengths on soft surfaces such as wipes and the hands.
RSV – can it be controlled?
RSV is a special case when compared to influenza and COVID-19, since there are currently no proven vaccines. People infected with RSV are advised to:
- Stay at home if symptoms are felt
- Cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and immediately wash the hands and face
- Wear a mask in crowded places or if visiting high-risk environments that house vulnerable people (aged care facilities or hospitals)
- Carry a simple protector like Enovid, the broad-spectrum antiviral nasal spray that kills all viruses and all variants before they infect
- Avoid contact with high-risk individuals (infants, aged immunocompromised people).
RSV – can infection be blocked?
If a virus can be prevented from lodging in the airways before getting the chance to multiply and pass on to the lungs, then the risk of infection will be drastically reduced. We recommend the Enovid Nitric Oxide Nasal Spray (NONS) spray, which is designed to stop any virus (including the SARs-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19) in the nasal passages and upper airways, preventing it from even getting to the lungs and incubating there. Enovid’s patented nasal spray creates a physical barrier in the nasal passages to stop viruses like RSV, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2 before passing them on to the lungs. Laboratory tests established its effectiveness over the full range of COVID-19 mutations and on ‘flu (h1N1) and RSV, with a 99.9% inactivation within two minutes.
The Enovid spray can be carried around with you, providing a portable shield to raise against infection when risks are high. A single spray dose in each nostril will protect against infection for at least four to five hours.
Enovid doesn’t interfere with everyday activities, and has no side effects. It’s OK for people who are on almost all types of medications, and youngsters and pregnant women are just as safe. Consider slipping it into the kid’s school bags or a parent’s pocket, especially if they are residents of a retirement village or home. Give them the confidence that will come from that additional layer of protection.
What does Enovid do?
Enovid acts in the same way as a hand sanitizer does, but for the nose. It can be inhaled into the nasal air passages with a sniff – whenever the risk of infection is high. It creates an antimicrobial nitric oxide (NO) chemical barrier and antiviral lining inside the nasal cavities. This forms a physical barrier that stops viruses and microbes from finding a surface to lodge, so they can’t penetrate further. NO doesn’t just block viruses – it kills them. It works within a few minutes after inhalation and will be effective for six to twelve hours. It reduces the viral load before any infection can find its way down into the lungs.
What’s the difference between COVID-19, RSV, and the ‘flu?
All three are respiratory diseases and have similar symptoms that overlap. The main differences are in how they are transmitted, the characteristics of the illnesses they cause, and who is most susceptible to severe illness and requires hospitalization. In general, COVID poses a greater risk to older people, RSV poses a more significant threat to children, and the ‘flu poses a lower threat to those two groups and pregnant women.
In any case, people infected with RSV with underlying health conditions or immunocompromised, regardless of age, are in the highest risk category.
Age and level of vaccination are the most important contributors to the development of severe infection and risk of death for COVID-19, with both significantly increased after 60 years of age.
In the case of RSV, the more recent the last infection of a child by RSV, the greater the level of protection. This puts infants less than a year of age, who have not yet been exposed, most at risk of severe outcomes. Some other groups are also vulnerable to RSV, mainly people over the age of 65, people with multiple or severe comorbidities, or who are immunocompromised through disease or medications.
Why is RSV so high this year?
It’s not possible to produce exact comparisons with prior years, because RSV only became a notifiable condition in 2021 in Australia. Nevertheless, the overall number of people infected with RSV is indicating a sharp uptick. Because of COVID, the technology and the ability to test for RSV with swabs is now more widespread. Doctors are aware that, given the complications that an epidemic of RSV could cause, it’s important to identify the virus within 24 hours.
How do I protect myself against RSV?
Unlike the ‘flu and COVID, there is no vaccine yet against RSV. A vaccine is being trialled at the moment, given to pregnant women and infants up to a year. When authorized in Australia, it may take twelve months before it’s generally available.
The only way to avoid any risk of infection is to minimize contact with infected people. If it is RSV, especially for very young, very elderly, or very sick people, it could end up with all sorts of complications requiring hospitalization. If isolation is not possible, then making use of a portable protection barrier like Enovid is a great alternative.