10 December 2020

Parents of children under five are urged to stay vigilant to measures to limit the transmission of respiratory viruses, as cases of respiratory illness are on the increase this summer.

Children with even mild respiratory symptoms should be kept home from school or childcare, and parents and carers are encouraged to ensure frequent handwashing and cough and sneeze etiquette. Children with respiratory symptoms should also be tested for COVID-19.

NSW Health data shows increasing Emergency Department presentations for bronchiolitis, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses in children aged 0-4, above the usual range for this time of year. Hospital admissions from ED in children are also elevated for bronchiolitis and all respiratory illnesses or fever.

Testing data has revealed an increase in the number of diagnoses of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in young children.

“While much of our focus this year has been on limiting the transmission of COVID-19, there are a number of other respiratory viruses that are transmitted very easily, and can result in severe illness in young children and other vulnerable people,” said Acting Executive Director of Health Protection, Dr Richard Broome.

Although respiratory illnesses are usually more common during the cooler months, the recent easing of restrictions and increasing social interactions may be contributing to the unseasonal increase.

“Even with very low levels of COVID-19 and the easing of restrictions, it is still important that anyone experiencing respiratory symptoms remain home from work, school or childcare, get tested, and pay attention to hand hygiene to reduce the transmission of other respiratory viruses”, said Dr Broome.

“Despite the recent easing of restrictions, it continues to be really important for anyone with respiratory symptoms to get tested for COVID-19.”

“A negative COVID-19 test doesn’t mean you are not infectious with another virus, and you should discuss when to return to work, school or childcare with your doctor”.

For more information see respiratory syncytial virus.