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RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. Alamy Stock Photo
Respiratory Syncytial virus

Children's emergency departments experiencing 'significant rise' in respiratory virus illness

The health minister says a rise in RSV cases tends to occur at this time each year.

EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS IN children’s hospitals are experiencing a “very significant rise” in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. 

At the opening of the National Forensic Mental Health Service in Portrane, the minister was asked about waiting times in accident and emergency departments. 

Donnelly said Eilísh Hardiman, Chief Executive at Children’s Health Ireland, has informed him of the significant rise, adding that “it’s happening here and it’s happening around the world”.

“There’s a lot of concern about just how sick some children are getting with RSV at the moment. It tends to spike and then come back down again. It tends to happen around this time of the year,” said Donnelly.

The minister said children’s hospitals “are dealing with very significant pressure” in terms of emergency departments.

The Health Service Executive  yesterday expressed concern at rising cases of respiratory illnesses such as RSV, and the impact such cases can have on the health system as winter approaches.


RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, with most people recovering in a week or two, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC).

However, it states that RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

RSV causes coughs and colds every winter and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in infants and is an important cause of severe respiratory illness among children under 2 years of age, according to the HSPC website. 

It adds that it is the most common cause of hospital admissions due to acute respiratory illness in young children.

“By two years of age, nearly all children have been infected with RSV at least once. Most cases are not specifically diagnosed as RSV; however it causes 80% of bronchiolitis and 20% of pneumonia cases in young children,” states the HSPC.

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