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Health experts raise calls for RSV awareness among seniors |

Health And Family

Health experts raise calls for RSV awareness among seniors

Kristofer Purnell -
Health experts raise calls for RSV awareness among seniors
This undated file photo shows senior citizens wearing face masks.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos, file

MANILA, Philippines — Health professionals are calling on the public, particularly senior citizens, to observe preventive measures against Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV.

Pharmaceuticals company GSK (formerly GlaxoSmithKline) hosted a panel discussion with partner doctors regarding the need for increased RSV awareness in the country in the middle of the rainy season.

Philippine College of Physicians President Dr. Rontgene Solante described RSV as a lesser-known respiratory virus yet as widespread, with symptoms including cough, fever, congestion and wheezing.

Solante said RSV can infect people at any time but transmission is more intense during the rainy season, peaking during the colder "Ber" months (September to December), and spreads easily within households where a person can infect three others.

Because of its intensity during the rainy season, Solante said it co-circulates with other illnesses like influenza and COVID-19, which makes it hard to differentiate.

Dr. Solante said there is a particular test for RSV that has only been done for two years. He stressed that there is no specific treatment for RSV in adults, only supportive care.

RSV was initially thought to be more prevalent among children below five years old, but the data that Solante presented shows hospitalization among seniors or the elderly with the virus is on the rise; hence, GSK's awareness campaign.

Solante also showed data where the chances of lower respiratory complications, bacterial infections, cardiac complications and death during hospitalization is slightly higher for seniors with RSV compared to seniors with the flu.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that there are 9.2 million senior citizens in the Philippines, and Solante said over half have co-morbidities like high blood pressure and diabetes.

He emphasized the importance of knowing one's co-morbidities as the chance of RSV infection grows higher for specific ones: twice higher for seniors with asthma, six times higher for seniors with heart disease and diabetes, and 13 times higher for seniors with COVID-19.

Related: Doctor advises dads, young men to take care of heart to avoid top disease

"Our experience with COVID-19 will serve as a backdrop for future infections," Solante reiterated.

Former Philippine College of Chest Physicians President Dr. Leonora Fernandez shared a story of the 76-year-old long-term patient she had who was quite healthy, except for an asthma condition.

The patient reported having cough, fever and shortness of breath. They took the test, and four hours later, RSV was detected. The patient was hospitalized for a week.

After getting discharged, the patient still had some shortness of breath and it took two months to fully recover.

"Our natural immunity will not protect us long-term from RSV," explained Fernandez.

The doctor shared preventive measures seniors can observe: complete vaccinations, regular handwashing, wearing masks when needed, staying hydrated and rested, no smoking or vaping, regular exercise, and a nutritious diet.

Actress-comedienne Nanette Inventor joined the panel to share her experience as a senior citizen with co-morbidities, jokingly claiming the title "Queen of Maintenance Medicine" as she has Type 2 diabetes, asthma and hypertension.

Inventor joked about being single all her life yet still going on dates where she liked to be seated by the window. She had to change her preference because of her co-morbidities, such as choosing to sit closer to the restroom and observing her food intake due to dietary restrictions.

In late 2021, Inventor spent 15 days in the Lung Center of the Philippines after contracting the COVID-19 Delta variant.

"The pandemic was a wake-up call for society to change," Inventor said, echoing Solante's words earlier. "Kailangan maging pro-active ka sa inyong health. Invest in your health, you need it everyday. Stay happier."

RELATED: Arnold Clavio begins therapy after suffering from stroke

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