Respiratory virus on the rise in Utah; rates especially high in Washington, Iron counties

Stock image | Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — Got a stuffy nose? Maybe a cough, congestion, runny nose and a tinge of a fever? 

A nurse with a sick child. Date and place unspecified. | Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

A lot of people in Washington and Iron counties are experiencing those symptoms right now, and there’s a reason for that. 

According to Intermountain Healthcare, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is on a big upswing in Utah right now, and some of the highest levels are in Washington and Iron counties.

In a statement by Intermountain Healthcare, Dr. Per Gesteland, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah, said RSV is a respiratory virus with symptoms resembling the common cold. It is also selective as far as how severe those symptoms go ranging from progression into bronchitis or pneumonia to nothing at all.

“Some people can have the infection and have no symptoms at all. Most healthy individuals recover in about a week. But for young children and older adults, the infection or its complications can be serious,” said Gesteland, who also serves as a pediatrician at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. “Infants under one year of age, particularly those with a history of prematurity, are among those of highest concern. Even older adults who have a condition affecting their lungs, heart or immune system can also be more severely affected.”

According to the American Lung Association, the main symptoms of RSV are nasal congestion, runny nose, mild cough and a low-grade fever. Other symptoms can include throat discomfort including a barking cough and wheezing. RSV has a higher chance than the common cold of progressing into more severe respiratory ailments like bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

An image provided by Intermountain Healthcare shows the extent of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in Utah, with high rates shown in Washington and Iron counties. | Photo by Intermountain Heathcare, St. George News

According to Intermountain, symptoms of RSV infection typically develop between three to seven days after being exposed and can last for up to a week. 

RSV is also easily spread, as anything touched by an infected person — including toys, utensils and furniture — can be infectious as the virus can live up to six hours on surfaces without disinfectant. People infected with RSV are usually contagious for three to eight days.

According to Intermountain Healthcare, many Utah counties — especially in the western portion of the state — are showing moderate to high levels of RSV. Reports of the virus are especially high among patients living in St. George and Cedar City. 

Sam Stucki, owner of Stucki Pharmacy in Washington City, said he’s been seeing a substantial increase in customers needing help dealing with the virus.

“This particular virus is a very difficult virus,” he said. 

As a virus, Gesteland said antibiotics will have no effect on RSV. Instead, he suggests non-aspirin pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen as well as using a humidifier and saline drops.

Stucki said the winning move against the virus is not to get it at all. Because once you have the virus, it’s a mismatch.

“If they are proactive before it ever comes on board they have a fighting chance. But once you’ve got the virus, it’s a little too late,” Stucki said. “Some of those B vitamins, Vitamin C. If you’re eating a McDonald’s or Burger King diet, you should definitely be on board with some vitamin supplements.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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