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Urgent warning as cases of dangerous kids’ virus surge – the 9 signs you must know

CASES of a nasty childhood virus have surged alongside several other dangerous bugs, new data reveals.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the cause of deaths for thousands of kids under five, across the world.

In some cases, RSV can become life threatening

And cases of the deadly virus have surged in the UK in recent weeks, especially among the youngest, most vulnerable age group.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, there has been an seven per cent increase in cases among under 5’s during the week ending October 16, compared to the previous week.

And the figures show there has been a three per cent rise across all ages.

RSV cases are higher than typical for this time of year, as are cases of other bugs, including flu.

That’s because Covid lockdowns, in which kids stayed at home, prevented RSV from circulating as it usually would.

Immunity to various bugs among children, and adults, was low when the UK came out of lockdowns last year.

Flu cases are also higher than usual for this time of year and are expected to soar in the coming weeks. 

Meanwhile, scientists warned of a so-called ‘swarm’ of three Omicron strains that could pose a threat this winter.



Previously modelling predicted that RSV levels may double compared to a normal year, in the wake of the pandemic.

In one report from the Academy of Medical Sciences, virus experts said the UK was heading for a “lethal triple mix of Covid-19, influenza, and the respiratory virus RSV” [this winter].

“This could push an already depleted NHS to breaking point this winter unless we act now,” it added.

This is already the case in the US, with all three viruses surging in young kids, catching doctors off guard.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US has been reporting about 5,000 cases per week.

This is on par with last year, but far higher than October 2020, in the first autumn of the coronavirus.

What is RSV?

RSV is a very common virus and almost all children are infected with it by the time they are two years old.

In older children and adults, RSV symptoms include a cough, cold, runny nose and fever.

The positivity rate for RSV – the percentage of people tested who get a positive result – has peaked at around 16 per cent this year, in July.

Although it has come down slightly, experts predict it to rise as the colder months draw in.

It’s mostly under fives that get the virus.

Is it life threatening?

In some cases, RSV can become life threatening.

Some children under two, especially those born prematurely or with a heart condition, can suffer more serious consequences.

RSV can develop into bronchiolitis, an inflammatory infection of the lower airways which can make it hard to breathe.

Other risk factors for bronchiolitis are not being breastfed, being exposed to a smoker and having siblings at school.

Bronchiolitis usually clears up on its own after around two weeks, and you can care for your child at home the same way as you would if they had a cold. 

But up to three per cent of babies who develop bronchiolitis during the first year of life will need to be admitted to hospital.

The NHS says: “Around one in three children in the UK will develop bronchiolitis during their first year of life. It most commonly affects babies between three and six months of age.

“By the age of  two, almost all infants will have been infected with RSV and up to half will have had bronchiolitis.”

The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are similar to those of a common cold but can develop over a few days into a high temperature of 37.8C or above (fever), a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

The 9 signs you shouldn’t ignore

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious, but see your GP or call NHS 111 if:

1. You’re worried about your child

2. Your child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more

3. Your child has a persistent high temperature of 38C or above

4. Your child seems very tired or irritable

5. Your child has not had a wet nappy for 12 hours or more

Dial 999 for an ambulance if:

6. Your baby is having difficulty breathing or is breathing very fast

7. There are long pauses in your baby’s breathing

8. Your baby’s tongue or lips are blue

9. You’re unable to wake your child or, if woken up, they do not stay awake.

It’s particularly important to get medical advice if your baby is less than 12 weeks old or they have an underlying health condition, the NHS says.

The NHS says while it’s unusual for children to need hospital treatment for bronchiolitis, the symptoms can get worse very quickly.

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