BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Health just launched a new website with resources about respiratory virus infections spreading rapidly in the state this fall and steps people can take to protect themselves. The new page follows Gov. Larry Hogan's announcement about statewide preparedness efforts to address an increase in potential Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and potential COVID-19 and flu surges.
The state has seen an early surge of severe respiratory illness, especially in very young and school-age children. Many children with RSV or other respiratory illnesses will experience cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, and fever, that get better within a week or two.
However, infants, people who are immunocompromised, and people living with certain chronic medical conditions may experience severe illness that can cause difficulty breathing and hospitalization. Contact your healthcare provider if you or your child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for RSV. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these steps to relieve symptoms:
Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Never give aspirin to children.)
Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
Talk to your healthcare provider before giving your child non-prescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.
“Most people who get a respiratory illness, including infants and other children, can be diagnosed and treated by a healthcare provider without a trip to the emergency room,” said MDH Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan. “Discussing your or your child’s symptoms with your healthcare provider first may be a good way to receive medical care and avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room.”
To reduce the risk of spreading a respiratory virus, Marylanders are urged to:
Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Cover coughs and sneezes using a tissue or your upper sleeve, not your hands.
Stay home if you or your child is sick, except to get medical care.
Don’t send a sick child to school or child care.
Consider wearing a mask, especially if you develop any symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough, or fever.
Get a COVID-19 booster and flu shot. Find a vaccination clinic.
Children under the age of 5 are especially vulnerable to developing serious complications from the flu, while older children can spread flu to their higher-risk family members. For this reason, the Maryland Department of Health recommends that all children over 6 months of age receive the influenza vaccine in early fall every year.
The new bivalent COVID-19 booster is now available and safe for all Maryland children, ages 5 and over who have completed their primary series or most recent booster at least two months ago; it offers protection against the original COVID-19 strain and the Omicron variant.
For more vaccination information click here.