Flu and RSV are active in Alaska right now – here’s how you can keep your babies and young children safe

November 17, 2022

Influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season is upon us and it is important to take precautionary measures to keep ourselves and those around us healthy and safe from infection. Ensuring you get a flu vaccination, practicing proper hand hygiene and staying home if you are sick will help protect you and those around you. 

“The best way you can protect your baby from getting sick is to wash or sanitize your hands before you touch him or her, make sure all the people that come to see your baby are not sick and that they wash or sanitize their hands before touching your baby, and to make sure that everyone who is around your baby are up to date on their flu and COVID-19 vaccines to keep your baby safe,” said Dr. Matt Hirschfeld, a pediatrician at ANMC and Vice President of Specialty Services.

The flu and RSV season in Alaska usually peaks between October and May in Alaska. RSV and flu are rapidly rising right now in Alaska, leaving many of Alaska’s hospital pediatric units at full capacity with very sick babies and young children.

As we are approaching the holiday season, we understand many families are looking forward to gathering in person. But, if you or anyone in your family are sick, please skip the in-person gatherings.

“We know many people are looking forward to gathering for all of the holidays, and we understand the importance of gathering with family and friends to celebrate. If you or anyone in your household is sick, please stay home from the celebrations in order to keep others from getting sick or even having to go to the hospital,” said Dr. Hirschfeld.

RSV and flu are common viruses that affect the lungs and breathing passages of people. Each year in Alaska, lots of babies and young children get very sick and need to be in the hospital when they get RSV or flu. If your infant or child requires emergent medical care and is admitted at any hospital besides Alaska Native Medical Center, please notify Purchased Referred Care by calling 907-729-2493 or completing the Emergency Care Notification at www.anmc.org/prc.

Babies and children who are at the highest risk are: 

  • Babies born early 
  • Babies 1 year old and younger 
  • Children with problems with their lungs or heart 
  • Children with weakened immune systems 
  • Children who have neuromuscular disorders and are weak, especially children who have trouble swallowing or coughing 

What are the symptoms of RSV and flu?

RSV and flu may not make babies very sick right away, but symptoms can become more severe after a few days into the illness. Early on, your baby could have:

  • Runny nose 
  • Decrease in appetite 
  • Cough, which may progress to wheezing or difficulty breathing 

RSV and flu in babies 

Babies who have RSV or flu can get very sick. Babies who do any of the following should be seen by a health care provider quickly:

  • Can’t take any breast milk, formula, or Pedialyte for 8 hours because they’re too sick 
  • Can’t wake up to feed because they are too sick 
  • Are breathing more than 60 breaths per minute or they look like they’re working hard to breathe 
  • Have pale skin 

“If your baby is sick enough that he/she can’t take any breast milk, formula, or Pedialyte for over 6-8 hours, you can’t wake your baby up to eat, or your baby is breathing more than 60 breaths per minute and is working hard to breathe, you baby needs to be seen by a health care provider right away,” said Dr. Hirschfeld.

What you should do if you someone in your family is sick?

RSV and flu are everywhere in Alaska RIGHT NOW. If you’re sick, please do the following to keep your friends, family and babies safe: 

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as much as you can.
  • Don’t touch your face or eyes with your hands.
  • Wear a mask if you’re sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your arm so you don’t spray other people.
  • If you’re sick, don’t be around babies or little kids because you might make them sick too, even if they are your own kids.
  • If you’re sick, don’t go to holiday or other gatherings as you might make your friends and family sick too.
  • If your child is sick, don’t let them go to school as they might get other kids sick too. 
  • Please try not to smoke around children as this can make RSV and flu symptoms worse.

What can you do to keep your family safe?

Get your flu vaccine. It is important for all people to get vaccinated for the flu to protect ourselves, as well as our family, coworkers and community. In addition, influenza poses a greater risk to certain people like babies and children, pregnant women and Elders – they are all at high risk for flu-related complications. 

If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine yet, it is not too late! Please check with your primary care provider, local clinic or hospital to make an appointment to receive a flu vaccine.

Proper hand hygiene is a very important part of preventing illness.

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap; lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails; scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice; rinse your hands well under clean, running water; and dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If you don’t have clean, running water available to wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. To effectively use a hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount); rub your hands together; and rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Thank you for helping keep our children, families and communities safe.

Browse More Stories

Share This Story