RSV outbreak: Worst could be to come for South

The outbreak of the potentially deadly respiratory virus RSV appears to have peaked nationally, but the worst could still be to come for the South.

Southern District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar said illnesses moved in a wave from the North to South Islands, which may lead to a delay in southern case numbers peaking.

Southern hospitals were monitoring the situation around Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), an illness that has swept much of New Zealand.

The illness can be fatal and infants and children are especially vulnerable.

Dr Millar said today children’s units in both Dunedin and Southland Hospitals were well staffed for the number of patients and their condition.

Numbers in Dunedin Hospital’s Children’s Unit had increased slightly from yesterday, but there was still space.

There was a small number of adult patients at Southland Hospital and a small number of respiratory patients in Lakes District Hospital’s emergency department.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Jack said children must have no symptoms for 24 hours before returning to day care.

Northern hospitals have been swamped with respiratory cases this winter, as winter ailments rarely seen last year due to Covid-19 lockdowns make a return.

Prof Graham Le Gros, of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, said the fact some hospital wards and emergency departments had been overwhelmed by respiratory illness cases was a wake-up call.

"It gives us clear-eyed insight of what a Covid-19 outbreak in the community would look like in New Zealand.

"We need to do everything we can to support safe RSV vaccine development as soon as possible, so that future generations of mums and dads do not have to face the terror of this infection in their little babies."

 - by Nina Foley

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