Pixabay/Be alert for symptoms of RSV, especially in children.

The Atlantic County Division of Public Health is urging parents and caregivers to be on alert for symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus known as RSV.

In most people, RSV causes a common cold and can be treated at home. But for infants, young children and older people, RSV can be more severe and lead to bronchiolitis, which is inflammation of the small airways in the lung, or pneumonia and may require hospitalization.

At this time there is no vaccine to prevent RSV infection, although there are treatments available for those at high risk for severe disease.

Cases of RSV have been on the rise across the country this fall, especially in children under 2 years. Symptoms of RSV may include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and fever.

Children who contract an RSV infection almost always show symptoms, unlike adults who may be asymptomatic. In very young infants, less than 6 months old, the only symptoms of RSV infection may be irritability, decreased activity, decreased appetite and apnea  or pauses while breathing.

Officials advise parents to contact a healthcare provider if their child exhibits any symptoms so they can be tested for RSV and COVID-19. If symptoms worsen call 911.

Like COVID-19 and influenza, RSV spreads through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes.

The best prevention is to cover coughs, avoid close contact with sick people, wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching face and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.