Schools are bracing for another winter marked by mass illness, as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continues to climb among children, prompting precautions to mirror those seen during COVID-19.
Settings for younger children, such as daycares and pre-K programs, face a potential “triple epidemic” of RSV, COVID-19 and influenza this season.
For the majority of adults and older children, RSV causes cold and flu symptoms that resolve within about a week. However, young children, especially infants and toddlers who have not been exposed to the virus, are at high risk of developing serious illness.
Day care centers and classrooms are known to be vectors for the transmission of pathogens like RSV, a virus for which there is currently no vaccine.
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However, educators are familiar with the precautions needed to combat RSV, which are similar to those taken during the height of the pandemic.
A big part of keeping kids safe is clear communication between educators and parents, said Shannon Robinson, health and nutrition manager at nonprofit Bright Beginnings daycare in Washington, D.C.
“It’s just about continuing to educate our parents and allowing them to ask any questions they might have because a lot of the information is new to parents where they don’t quite understand what’s going on. exactly,” Robinson said.
Bright Beginnings publishes a weekly flyer in their COVID-19 and RSV Precautions Parent Newsletter, providing information on symptoms to watch out for, recommended precautions, and when to take their children to the doctor.
“Constant communication with early prevention is key to combating where we are currently trying to reduce RSV cases,” Robinson said, noting that they have had five to six confirmed cases this year, compared to 20 to 30 cases last year. last year.
Children’s immune systems may be better this year since “last year there were also a lot of first-timers in school,” she added.
In addition to communicating symptoms, child care centers must also have strict standards for when children should stay home.
“I know most child care providers are really stressing to parents that they won’t accept a child with symptoms into their program, which is hard to do. Parents have to go to work, but that’s the first line of defense,” Cindy Lehnhoff, director of the National Child Care Association, told The Hill.
In addition to limits for child care providers, Lehnhoff stressed that parents should be “very, very careful” about the facility they take their children to, asking providers about hand-washing policies, disinfection patterns and power configuration.
Major US school districts have told The Hill that while they are not mandating mitigation methods, they are encouraging parents, teachers and students to return to practices that have become commonplace during the worst times of the pandemic. COVID-19 pandemic.
Hand washing, sanitizing toys, keeping children home when they are sick – and clear communication between parents and caregivers – are all seen as key to keeping children safe this winter.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) acknowledged in a November press release that it was suffering from “extremely severe respiratory infections in children.”
“Unfortunately, there has been a huge impact on our hospital emergency rooms,” the district, one of the largest in the country, said in a statement.
Children’s hospitals across the country are facing bed and staff shortages amid this current viral respiratory season. Many resorted to emergency room beds as their wards filled up.
Taking inspiration from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the school district encouraged parents to remind their children of proper hygiene, consider masking indoors and get vaccinated against flu and COVID-19.
The only treatment available for RSV is monoclonal antibodies, which are usually reserved for extremely high-risk cases as a proactive measure.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools have made similar recommendations this season while pausing before issuing outright warrants.
Even in non-traditional educational settings for students, precautions are taken against RSV.
Erica Phillips is the Executive Director of the National Association for Home Child Care, an organization focused on family child care programs that encompass small groups of children in a home setting.
She said family child care workers are taking the same steps as traditional schools and daycares. And despite the anxiety and concern surrounding circulating viruses, Phillips expressed confidence that childcare providers are up to the challenge.
“Family child care educators have become masters of this over the past three years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
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