The Delta variant of COVID-19 is showing up in local school children, Vigo County health officials said Wednesday.

And what’s more, the seasonal respiratory virus RSV which usually shows up in the winter months in infants and young children is showing up now, months earlier than usual.

“My own opinion is nobody’s masking, so respiratory viruses are spreading like crazy right now,” said county Health Commissioner Dr. Darren Brucken during a meeting of the Vigo County Board of Health.

“We are seeing RSV at an odd time of year,” Brucken continued. “Maybe we are picking up on it because of extra testing, but it’s a bit of a concern. We do not want to shift a seasonality-based virus to a different season.”

Board member Jimmy McKanna, a respiratory therapist at Union Hospital, confirmed RSV usually shows up in the winter, but is already showing up in patients. RSV can affect adults as well.

Dr. James Turner, board president, said RSV affects children more due to their anatomy, because they cannot cough out mucus and they develop a wet choking cough. There is no treatment for RSV other than supportive care.

Currently RSV is going through area daycare centers, Turner said.

This past week, one daycare center had six children who tested positive for RSV, and one child also tested positive for COVID-19, he said.

“We could have children who are carrying both viruses, and the concern is how sick are they going to be,” Turner said. “The combination of two theoretically deadly viruses is a real concern, so we’re definitely going to be on the lookout for it.”

In the local school corporation, some of the sports teams currently practicing for fall sports are seeing student athletes testing positive for COVID-19, said health department administrator Joni Wise.

Only about 14 percent of county children age 14 to 18 are vaccinated against COVID-19.

An incentive to get parents to have children vaccinated could be quarantining and exclusion from extracurricular activities for those who are unvaccinated, Wise said.

The effectiveness of the vaccine is shown by the number of people who have already received one of the vaccines, Dr. Turner said. About 340 million vaccines have been given in America and 2.2 billion worldwide, meaning it is a well-tested vaccine.

In Vigo County, 127 people with COVID-19 have been admitted to Union Hospital since the vaccine became available, Turner said. Of those 127 patients, only five had been vaccinated, and two of those five were people over age 90 who had co-morbidity that complicated their cases.

A vaccinated person can still get COVID-19 but will experience milder symptoms that do not result in hospitalization even if headache, fever, cough and tiredness do present, Turner said.

“If you get vaccinated, you do not go to the hospital,” Turner said. “I don’t know what stronger message you can get than that.”

The few vaccinated people who have contracted the Delta variant have not been as sick as patients who were not vaccinated, he said, explaining the vaccines have been effective in saving lives.

The health department staff continues to work on public education about vaccines and continues to offer vaccinations at the county health clinic.
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