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Infants and old at risk as virus spreads through island

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Click the pic see see an info graphic on RSV
Click the pic see see an info graphic on RSV

Large numbers of sick children on St Helena are reported to have been infected with a virus that can be serious for infants and old people.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.31.07Many of those turning up at the hospital in Jamestown with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have come from the same creches or other busy environments.

In the United States, the virus is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age, and a significant cause of breathing problems in older people.

A leaflet issued by St Helena’s health department on 19 February 2015 says:

“RSV is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages.

“Healthy people usually experience mild, cold-like symptoms and recover in a week or two. But RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

“Infants under six months old in particular can get seriously ill.

“The virus produces a thick mucus, which is difficult for the child to cough up.

“It does NOT respond to antibiotics.”

The virus spreads when droplets from a cough or sneeze come into contact with eyes, or when someone touches an infected surfaces and then touches their eyes.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.30.54Symptoms include prolonged coughing, wheezing, mucus, and severe tiredness.

Patients may not have strength to eat, drink or cough.

The most important advice is to wash hands before and after contact with children.

The leaflet also encourages people to:

  • make children sleep in a cool room, with head raised
  • encourage drinking
  • avoid contact with infants
  • avoid smoking near children
  • limit visitors

St Helena Government has not disclosed the number of patients known to have contracted the virus.

Read more here

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