Australian travel bubble could be the root of RSV virus

By Taroi Black

Rotorua Hospital has allocated four ICU beds for children and babies who have fallen seriously ill with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

The hospital has already admitted two babies into its intensive care unit and the Lakes District Health Board is urging families to keep their children at home unless they need medical care.

Lakes DHB anaesthetist Dr Arihia Waaka said there’s been a major shift from “no cases” of RSV at the end of lockdown last year to 58 tamariki carrying the virus in Rotorua, Tauranga and Taupo today.

“No doubt this is going to be a community spread.”

Since Monday, 48 children have visited the Rotorua Hospital emergency department with respiratory illnesses - and 14 of them have been admitted to the paediatric ward with RSV.

Hospitals across the country are having to postpone surgeries and create extra bed space to cope.

There were only 34 cases recorded last year between April and September. Institute of Environmental Science and Research data shows six main hospitals nationwide have doubled in the last week, from 204 to 538.

“There are two factors one being it is winter and the other, which doctors have been discussing, over the travel bubble to Australia - people could be bringing the virus here,” Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen says.

Rotorua Hospital RSV plan

  • Patients must not leave their room unless advised by medical staff for investigation or treatment.
  • Parents should stay in the room with their children and use the call bell if their child needs attention.
  • If any parent, caregiver or any family member at home has cold, cough or flu-like symptoms, Lakes DHB would prefer they do not visit, but if you need to, as close family to a child in the unit, you must sanitise hands on arrival and wear a face mask while in the unit. The infection is spread through touch as well as coughing/and sneezing, so visitors are asked not to kiss or touch either children or whānau in RSV areas.
  • On leaving visitors should dispose of the face mask in the bin by the patient’s room, and clean their hands using the sanitiser by the exit before leaving the unit.  

Tips on how you can help prevent the spread of RSV:

• Avoid kissing your baby if you have cold symptoms

• Don't let anyone smoke around your baby

• Ask people to wash their hands before touching your baby

• Keep sick children home from daycare, kindergarten or school

• Practice regular hand-washing

• Cough/sneeze into your elbow

• Keep your distance from others when out in public

For health advice call Healthline on 0800 611 116.