File photo of a child with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Respiratory viruses and Hand Foot and Mouth disease are plaguing local daycare centres in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, with some kids ending up in hospital. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer
File photo of a child with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Respiratory viruses and Hand Foot and Mouth disease are plaguing local daycare centres in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, with some kids ending up in hospital. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer

Warning to parents as viruses surge

Parents are being urged to keep an eye out for virus symptoms in their young children, with a surge in cases in the Sunshine Coast Health District, of which Gympie is a part.

Respiratory viruses and Hand Foot and Mouth disease are plaguing local daycare centres in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, with some kids ending up in hospital.

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A Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service spokesman said the number of presentations of Hand Foot and Mouth through hospital emergency departments in the region was at the same level this year as last - 2 for the months of January and February. But many young children are not taken to an ED, but to a GP, and Hand Foot and Mouth is often not diagnosed on admission to an ED, but later.

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Respiratory virus admissions, though, are definitely up.

Viral Diseases - Hand Infected - Hand foot and mouth disease HFMD
Viral Diseases - Hand Infected - Hand foot and mouth disease HFMD

Over the first two months of this year there were 224 Emergency Department diagnoses of respiratory infection across the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service area (including Gympie).

This is a significant jump on the presentations for the same two months last year, which were 142.

“In January 2021 there were 38 adult presentations to SCHHS emergency departments for respiratory infection and 47 paediatric cases, compared with 46 adult presentations and 28 paediatric presentations in January 2020,” the spokesman said.

“In February 2021 there were 29 adult and 110 paediatric presentations compared with 44 adult and 24 paediatric presentations in 2020.”

SCHHS public health physician Dr Josette Chor said respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was a virus that spread easily through droplets from coughing and sneezing or through touching the nose and eyes after touching an infected person or contaminated surface.

RSV is different to Hand Foot and Mouth disease.

“In January and February this year there were a total of two Emergency Department diagnoses of Hand-Foot and Mouth disease across the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service area (including Gympie),” the spokesman said.

“In January and February 2020 there were also two ED presentations.”

Gympie Hospital.
Gympie Hospital.

Symptoms of Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Symptoms of RSV usually appear 3-10 days after exposure. A person with RSV is normally infectious from when they start to show symptoms to 7-10 days after symptoms develop.

Symptoms can include a runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat, headache and general malaise. Symptoms can be more severe in babies under 6 months with wheezing and shortness of breath, irritability and poor feeding.

RSV may lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and can be very serious in very young children, the elderly and anyone with chronic medical conditions.

Any person who develops symptoms of RSV should stay at home and see their doctor.

Good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette is important to prevent RSV.

This includes washing your hands regularly with soap and water, after touching surfaces or after coughing or sneezing and covering your mouth and nose with your elbow when sneezing.