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Respiratory Viral Season in Full Force

By Debbie Lehman, M.D.
Associate Director, Pediatric Infectious Diseases

As you may be aware, Los Angeles County -- as well as the rest of the country -- is seeing an unusually high rate of influenza-like illnesses. We are experiencing higher rates than last year, and we are having an especially robust number of illnesses due to influenza B. We continue to see endemic levels of RSV, especially in our pediatric patients.

  • Patients who present with respiratory symptoms suggestive of a viral infection should be placed in appropriate isolation (usually droplet for presumed influenza) pending viral testing results.
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's microbiology laboratory has rapid testing available for seven respiratory viruses (RSV, influenza A and B, parainfluenza viruses 1-3 and respiratory adenovirus).
    • These tests are available daily during the respiratory viral season. The best specimens to submit are a nasopharyngeal wash for infants and a nasal swab for older children and adults.
  • The microbiology lab will perform STAT Flu and RSV by EIA and if negative, backed up by DFA for the seven respiratory viruses. For pediatric specimens, negative tests are backed up with a viral culture. For specimens on adults, the back up culture must be ordered at the time of initial submission.
We would like to remind you that these respiratory viruses are easily spread through close contact with respiratory secretions, either through contact with large droplets or via articles contaminated by nasopharyngeal secretions. Studies have demonstrated that these hearty respiratory viruses can persist on fomites for many hours and on hands for at least 30 minutes. Hand washing and adherence to personal protective gear is the most effective way to reduce nosocomial spread.

Of course, the influenza vaccine also provides protection against both influenza A and B, and employees can obtain the vaccine from Employee Health Services.

Viral activity in the community and nationwide can be tracked via several websites: www.cdc.gov/flu/ and www.labugs.blogspot.com.

You can also find valuable information about viral infectivity and isolation procedures on the medical center's internal website at: http://web.csmc.edu/7466.html.