RSV is not an epidemic, no need to suspend study in schools: Health minister

Zeinab El-Gundy , Monday 21 Nov 2022

The spread of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) should not alarm the public as it is not an epidemic and its spread does not call for the suspension of study in schools, Minister of Heath and Population Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said on Tuesday in a press conference held in Cairo about the recent spreading of the virus.

Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar


According to Abdel-Ghaffar, RSV, a virus that infects the respiratory system, is not new as it has been discovered as far back as 1956.

The virus increasingly spreads with the start of the winter, he said, adding that children aging 6-months to two-years old are the most prone to getting infected.

“The virus lives on surfaces for hours. Newborns, less than 6 months old, and children with diseases or immune diseases tend to suffer from the most severe symptoms, whereas children aged two to five years old tend to have symptoms for a week or two,” he said

Abdel-Ghaffar pointed out that the incubation period of the virus ranges from 4 to 6 days, and may reach two weeks, after which the symptoms begin to show.

The Minister said the symptoms of respiratory diseases in children are difficulty in breathing, fever, cold, vomiting, and sore throat. He underscored the importance of seeking out a specialist in case a child develops any of these symptoms, to guarantee that the child receives proper care and treatment.  

“If you notice difficulty in your child’s breathing or any other symptoms, he should be directed to the hospital immediately," he said, stressing the importance of isolating the child at home or at the nursery in case the infection is confirmed.  

Abdel-Ghaffar noted that the ministry has a strong epidemiological surveillance system for infectious diseases at 27 facilities.

He pointed out that since 2020 several mild cases of the virus have been monitored and diagnosed before the virus disappeared.

The minister stated, however, that in October and November 2022 the ministry began monitoring the seasonal attack of this virus, noting that the symptoms of the virus are mild to moderate but its spread rates are high.  

“1,611 cases were detected and diagnosed with RSV between October and November. The most highly infected  were children under the age of two years. After surveys conducted at 21 children’s hospitals nationwide and following genetic sequencing and PCR tests, the virus was identified as RSV,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.

Furthermore, the minister stressed that since it is a viral not bacterial infection, RSV cannot be treated with antibiotics, warning against the use of antibiotics in treating such cases.

 He also pointed out that so far there are no vaccines to protect against the virus due to the periodic change in the virus’ proteins.

Abdel-Ghaffar noted, however, that the remedy for mild symptoms in young children are home comfort and the use of temperature reducers under the doctor’s instructions.

RSV did not spread that much in the past two years due to the preventative measures taken by families during the coronavirus pandemic, he stated.

“During the coronavirus period, the rates of infection with the virus decreased to 16% due to precautionary measures,” he said, stressing that the presence of a link between the COVID-19 vaccine and the emergence of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus has not been scientifically proven.

The minister shared a number of tips with parents to protect their children from infection with RSV during the winter, most importantly washing hands regularly, cleaning  surfaces constantly, ventilating rooms well, and avoiding kissing children at such times.

Other tips he shared included enhancing children's immunity by drinking plenty of fluids and by eating healthy foods such as fresh fruits that are rich in vitamin C.


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