Virus alert
Arviat hit hard by RSV

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Arviat(Feb 02/00) - Twenty patients, mainly young children, diagnosed with the sometimes fatal RSV virus, have been medevaced to Manitoba health-care facilities from Arviat.

The deadly virus was first diagnosed in Arviat on Jan. 18. Since that time, the number of those infected has grown to more than 30. There have also been three confirmed cases of RSV in Rankin Inlet.

Two of the three children confirmed with the virus in Rankin had to leave the community for medical attention, but have since returned.

Roxanne Stuckless is the patient services director for the Keewatin Regional health Board (KRHB).

She said there have been no fatalities resulting from the viral outbreak, which usually targets the very young and the elderly.

"We had to close down the day care in Arviat, but it just didn't make any sense to close any of the schools," said Stuckless.

"The kids would all be socializing at home anyway, so that would really defeat the whole purpose."

RSV outbreaks are a regular occurrence in the Kivalliq, with two or three outbreaks a year being the norm.

The virus attacks the respiratory system. The best defence against it is good cleanliness habits such as frequent washing of the hands and refraining from sharing eating and drinking utensils.

Stuckless said parents should also take great care in ensuring babies aren't exposed to second-hand smoke.

"If kids have runny noses, parents should ensure they're cleaning the discharge and washing their hands after wiping their noses.

"Kids should also wash their hands before and after touching babies.

"If adults or older kids are showing symptoms of a cold, they should avoid kissing babies.

"Healthy babies should also be kept away from the sick ones."

As of press time, Stuckless said the KRHB's request for people not to travel to Arviat unless absolutely necessary was still in effect.

"Even though we haven't had any new diagnosed cases in the past two or three days, we're not going to jump the gun and say it's OK to travel just yet.

"We're still being very cautious about this outbreak."