Bronchiolitis: The syncytial virus outbreak that worries the US and Chile

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What is Bronchiolitis and Why is it a Concern in the US?

Infant Deaths in Chile Prompt Awareness

(CNN Spanish) — The recent deaths of six infants in Chile due to the syncytial virus, a highly contagious respiratory virus, have raised concerns about the lack of a vaccine against it in the country. The outbreak, considered the most significant in recent years, thrives in low temperatures.

Health System Struggles to Handle Respiratory Viruses

“We are facing a complex situation regarding respiratory viruses. Having sufficient resources and beds is crucial for children with severe symptoms,” stated Health Minister, Ximena Aguilera, during her visit to a hospital in Santiago.

Inadequate Protection in the US

The United States has recently approved the first vaccine against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but it is only available for individuals over the age of 60. This puts younger individuals at risk, as RSV causes thousands of hospitalizations and deaths annually among those aged 65 and older.

Critical Bed Shortage in Chile

According to the latest report by the Chilean Ministry of Health, both public and private hospitals are operating at 92% capacity in their critical care units. Moreover, since the beginning of the winter campaign, there have been 235 pediatric transfers. The situation is expected to worsen with the decreasing temperatures and the presence of other viruses, such as the flu.

The Devastating Effects of the Syncytial Virus

“The syncytial virus causes severe illness, particularly respiratory failure, in children under one year of age. It significantly damages lung tissue,” explained Christian García, the head of the Department of Epidemiology at the Ministry of Health. The vulnerability of a large population during the pandemic has contributed to the widespread circulation and increase in cases,” he added.

A Common Respiratory Virus Sparks Hospital Crisis

A rising surge of children affected by a common respiratory virus has placed an overwhelming burden on hospitals. Here’s what parents need to know about this alarming situation.

Mandatory Mask Usage Implemented

In response to the ongoing health crisis and amidst criticism from opposition parties, the government has reinstated the mandatory use of masks for teachers and children aged 5 and above in enclosed school spaces. This measure aims to prevent the transmission of the virus through respiratory droplets.

Transmission and Containment Challenges

The virus spreads through coughing and close contact with infected individuals. It can also survive on surfaces, such as tables or handrails. Due to its high transmissibility, the authorities are considering extending the mandatory mask usage to other enclosed spaces, including public transportation.

Investigation into Infant Deaths

The cases of deceased infants have raised public concern and prompted an investigation into the delays in transferring them to pediatric beds. This situation has already led to the departure of the former undersecretary of care networks, Fernando Araos.

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