Worcester health officials are calling for masking, but not just for COVID

Health

RSV is one of the viruses contributing to a sharp increase in pediatric hospitalizations.

Worcester health officials have recommended wearing the mask in an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can cause more serious illness among young children. In the photo: Arianna Licona, 6, leads a first grade class in the Hill School for the first day of classes in Revere on August 25, 2021.

Worcester health officials are urging residents to wear masks to help prevent further efforts for hospitals during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, flu season and an “unusual” increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases.

In a statement on Friday, city health officials strongly recommended masking children as young as 2, as well as their family and guardians. Any residents who are indoors around others – or in crowded outdoor public spaces – should also dress up, they said.

Younger children hit harder

RSV usually causes mild cold-like symptoms, and most of those affected recover within a week or two, according to the release. However, young children, the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems can experience more serious illnesses, including bronchitis and pneumonia, Worcester health officials explained.

“While there is no specific treatment or vaccine for RSV, the spread can be prevented by covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands with soap and water, cleaning infected surfaces, and staying home when you are sick, “they said. “Anyone suffering from severe symptoms such as decreased appetite, fever or wheezing should contact their doctor.”

Health officials have also encouraged to stay up to date on flu and COVID-19 vaccines to avoid serious complications. Worcester has several weekly free vaccination clinics throughout the city.

RSV is one of the viruses that contribute to the increase in respiratory diseases among children, resulting in a sharp increase in hospitalizations.

“The number of cases we’re seeing is perhaps 50 to 70 percent more than in a typical year,” said Dr. Timothy Gibson, a pediatrician at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, in Boston. “And it’s still early in the season.”

Dr. Michael Hirsh, medical director of the Worcester Division of Public Health, told the station that “bed availability in pediatric intensive care in Massachusetts is at DefCon 5”.

Mass General for Children told Boston.com last month that the viral season started very early this year. It also appears to be more severe, with patients often presenting with not just one virus, but often two or even three, the hospital said.

“We think at least part of this trend is due to children returning to school unmasked after 2 years of social distancing and masking,” MGfC said. “They are catching colds and taking them home to their younger siblings who may not be able to tolerate them.”

What does this mean for schools?

Worcester’s superintendent of public schools, Dr Rachel Monárrez, told al Telegram and Journal that masks will continue to be optional for Worcester students and does not expect to implement a mandate for masks.

“We will work in partnership with our Department of Public Health and will continue to watch, observe and make decisions,” Monárrez told the newspaper.

Asked if the increase in RSV could lead to a masking mandate or data collection on the impact of the virus at the district level, he told the Telegram and Journal she would speak to the director of nursing and health services, Dr. Debra McGovern.

In an email to Boston.com, McGovern said the issue will be up for discussion when he meets with city health officials Wednesday.

“We are seeing a lot of colds, most likely secondary to RSV in our school-age students,” he said. “We can only record in a student’s medical record if we are given a diagnosis from to [primary care provider]so we don’t have real numbers to share. “

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