What parents need to know about RSV and how to stop the spread

Practice good hygiene and keep babies and young children out of large crowds

Infants and young children are especially at risk to develop severe illnesses after contracting RSV.
Adobe stock photo / Special to On the Minds of Moms
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Last month, the North Dakota Health and Human Services issues a notice about increased numbers of pediatric hospitalizations due to respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

As of Nov. 19, North Dakota had nearly 200 positive weekly cases of RSV, while Minnesota had nearly 2,000 and South Dakota had nearly 100, according to CDC data. At this time last year, North Dakota had 1 positive weekly case, Minnesota had 1,400 and South Dakota had 1,200.

RSV is a virus spread primarily via respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, and through direct contact with a contaminated surface, according to the release.

Symptoms include runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing. If children start showing these symptoms, they can be treated with over-the-counter medications and increased fluid intake. Parents should watch for any signs of dehydration and track wet diapers in an eight-hour period.

Symptoms can last for 5 to 7 days, but parents should keep an eye on a sick child's breathing and whether it is becoming labored. Watch the American Academy of Pediatrics video below for signs of RSV and labored breathing.


Typically, all children will contract RSV at least once before turning 2, and it will present itself like a cold. However, RSV can be dangerous for infants and young children. Some may be able to receive a prescription for a medication that can help prevent RSV. Eligible children may include premature infants and those born with certain lung or heart issues, according to the release. Parents are encouraged to talk with their child's pediatrician regarding eligibility for this medication.

To stop the spread of RSV, families are encouraged to:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people 
  • Avoid taking a baby into large crowds 
  • Never smoke around your baby 
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds 
  • Avoid touching face with unwashed hands 
  • Clean and sanitize surfaces frequently, including toys 
  • Stay up to date on routine immunizations, including influenza vaccine, to prevent illness and hospitalization due to other diseases 

Even though RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is currently no vaccine to prevent the virus.

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Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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