Chile issues health alert for syncytial virus outbreak that caused the death of at least 6 newborns

(CNN Spanish) — At least six newborns have died in Chile from the syncytial virus, a virus for which there is no vaccine available in the country and which proliferates in low temperatures and whose outbreak has been classified by the country’s authorities as “the largest of the last years”. .

“We are in a complex situation due to respiratory viruses. The complexity of the beds is a very important part of having the resources for children who have a more serious course,” Health Minister Ximena Aguilera said on Wednesday during an inspection of a hospital in Santiago.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA, for its acronym in English) approved the first vaccine against respiratory syncytial or RSV in early May, but only for people over the age of 60. In that country, the virus causes between 60,000 and 120,000 hospitalizations a year and between 6,000 and 10,000 deaths among people ages 65 and older, according to the FDA.

According to the latest report of the Chilean Ministry of HealthUp to this Wednesday there was 92% occupancy of critical beds in hospitals, both public and private, and a total of 235 pediatric transfers since the start of the winter campaign. Even for the next few days, the forecasts are not encouraging: the drop in temperatures and other viruses, such as the flu, could further congest the hospital network.

“The syncytial virus causes severe disease, destroys lung tissue and causes respiratory failure in children, especially those under the age of one,” explained Christian García, head of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “During the pandemic, a large susceptible population was generated and this explains, in part, the large number of circulations and cases detected by our health system,” he added.

Amid criticism from the political opposition over its handling of the health crisis, the government has announced that starting this Thursday the compulsory use of masks will return for teachers and children over the age of 5 in the closed spaces of schools until the end of the health alert set for August 31st

“The virus is transmitted when an infected person coughs and does not cover up properly, so the droplets of the virus reach other people and can enter through the mouth, mucous membranes and eyes. Also by contact with surfaces on which these droplets have fallen, such as a table, handrail, handles,” explained García, adding that due to the ease with which this virus can spread, the possibility of extending this measure to other enclosed spaces, such as public transport.

The cases of deceased newborns have had resonance in public opinion due to the lack of speed in managing transfers to pediatric beds, a situation which the authorities are investigating and which has already cost the former undersecretary of care networks, Fernando Araos, the departure .

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