Virus alert in Lee County
The Lee County Health Department says the RSV, or syncytial virus, is on the rise. Video by fox4now.comvideo
FORT MYERS, Fla. - The virus has flu-like symptoms but it's completely different. And officials say the way to prevent it is good hygiene. Hand-washing is the best line of defense.
Parents and the elderly are being put on high alert. The contagious syncytial virus, better known as RSV, is making the rounds in alarming numbers in Lee County.
"We discovered that there were very high numbers of RSV, unusually high," said Diane Holm, a spokeswoman with the Lee County Health Department.
Holm says 52 people contracted the disease last week. The highest number of cases was four weeks ago, when there were 65.
"We got calls, the public called us, and wanted to know what was going on with the flu that they were getting sick," added Holm.
Holm says there's no vaccine for RSV. It's especially dangerous to children younger than two years old and anyone with respiratory problems.
"How is this different from other common flu viruses?," asked Fox 4 reporter Gabrielle Sarann. "Studies have shown that RSV can live on the hands for up to 30 minutes and so that's a really long time in comparison to other flu viruses," explained Holm.
Parents like Kadie Stewart are concerned.
"I'm very worried about [my daughter]," said Stewart, of Lehigh Acres. "At two years old, they love to put stuff in their mouth."
And Merita Row isn't taking any chances with her two-month old nephew.
"I try to make him germ-free because you know his clothes wash clean, his bed linen is clean," said Row, of Fort Myers.
Doctors say the virus can be severe if it escalates to pneumonia. And they're keeping an eye out as cases of RSV spread.
"Are you seeing more children coming in with RSV," asked Sarann to Dr. Kyle Smith, of First Choice Kidcare in Fort Myers. "Definitely more children, more with the babies."
And doctors can test for RSV using a nasal swab. The results differentiate it from the flu.