Throughout the past two weeks schools have witnessed the spread of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) among young students as parents worried about their children’s health have shared their concerns on social media platforms.
The symptoms include high fever, runny nose, difficulty in breathing, and coughing. Ministry of Health and Population Spokesman Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar pointed out that 98 per cent of the infected patients recovered easily. “The ministry has conducted mass tests among school students who were suffering from flu-like symptoms and found that 73 per cent of them were infected with RSV while the remaining percentage were suffering other respiratory diseases, among them Covid-19,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.
According to Abdel-Ghaffar, there is no need for parents to worry as most infected patients can easily recover with on-shelf medicine, and that very few patients need to be hospitalised. “There is no particular vaccine for RSV. Flu viruses change their nature every winter, therefore, there is no need to worry. Each year we will witness a new strain of the flu virus and this is normal,” he explained.
He said the ministry observed that infections spread mostly among infants zero-two years old. However, there were also infections recorded among school students grade 10 and up. “Most vulnerable people to the virus are malnourished children and those with weak immunity,” he said, adding that the elderly can also develop complications from the virus if they suffer from chronic diseases, especially in the respiratory system.
Abdel-Ghaffar said the virus can be easily avoided by abiding by precautionary measures: wearing face masks, washing hands, and maintaining social distancing. “The virus is greatly spread among young school students as they are unaware of the importance of maintaining precautionary measures. They touch a lot and sit and play closely together without any precautions,” Abdel-Ghaffar said while directing parents to encourage their children to abide by precautionary measures and provide healthy nutrients that would strengthen their immune system such as dairy products, vegetables, and proteins.
Spokesman of the Ministry of Education and Technical Education Shadi Zalata attempted to allay the fears of worried parents by stating that since the ministry first noticed the spread of RSV it has instructed all schools to reschedule exams for sick students who missed them. Furthermore, schools must disinfect their premises, isolate any student who suffers any flu symptoms, oblige students to wear facemasks and bring their own disinfectants with them for their hands and utensils before and after using them.
“Parents must keep their children at home if they are severely ill. The academic year will not be halted, as the situation is not alarming,” Zalata said.
Chest disease doctor Khaireya Ebeid noted that if somebody has flu-like symptoms he or she must visit a specialised doctor to receive the proper medication and not consult a pharmacist. RSV symptoms are very similar to that of the common flu such as a runny nose, headache and cough, however, RSV patients also suffer difficulty in breathing, Ebeid noted. “Infected patients undergo smears in order to determine whether it is RSV or Covid-19, adopt precautionary measures, rest at home for at least three days, receive the prescribed medicine and apply social distancing in order not to infect others,” Ebeid said.
She said infected patients can easily recover from the virus within five to six days. However, in rare cases recovery could take up to two weeks.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.