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Local charity Koala NW launches project to raise awareness of RSV in little ones this Winter

This year, health bodies are braced for an increase in Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases among the very young (under two years of age).

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a common viral infection, one that causes coughs and colds in Winter and can lead to bronchiolitis. Health bosses are concerned that many families may not recognise the symptoms.

Local charity Koala North West, in partnership with four other local voluntary organisations – Wirral Multicultural Organisation, The Foundation Years Trust, Ferries Family Groups and Bee Wirral, have received a grant of more than £124,000 to support and respond to a potential surge in respiratory infections and RSV in children aged 0-3 in Wirral. 

The funding, part of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Fund, will allow Koala NW, and their voluntary sector partners, to run a six-month awareness raising project, called ‘Little Lungs Wirral’, which will include outreach support, a weekly support group, training for staff, volunteers and parents and a helpline.

Bev Morgan, CEO of Koala NW, said: “RSV is a common virus, that most little ones will get before their second birthday. Most children manage well at home and the virus does not require treatment with antibiotics, steroids or inhalers. The concern is that many children will not have built up much immunity in the past year, due to social distancing and other COVID-19 protective measures that have given many of us a break from coughs and colds.

“We’ve got some really interesting plans in the pipeline of our Little Lungs Wirral project and hope that, by raising awareness, we can help lots of Wirral parents understand the virus and when to seek medical advice for RSV or bronchiolitis.”

The VCSE Health and Wellbeing Fund is jointly run by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and NHS England and NHS Improvement.

In addition to Koala NW’s existing services, which provide local families with a range of support including antenatal services, breastfeeding peer support, family support, group sessions and more, Little Lungs Wirral will also offer weekly online support groups with a respiratory paediatric nurse alongside an interpretation service for BAME families from Wirral Multicultural Organisation.

Julie Webster, Wirral’s Director of Public Health, said: “Following low infection levels in response to COVID-19 restrictions and good infection control measures that have been in place, many of us including small children, have dodged colds and viruses that were previously commonplace.

“As we mix more we are seeing a rise in respiratory infections, but getting the right support for viruses in little ones is crucial. Just because it’s ‘not Coronavirus’ doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“Koala NW are a massive support to the local families already. This project could help to spare lots of little ones from becoming quite unwell over the winter months.”

Symptoms of RSV include; runny nose, sneezing or nasal congestion, a cough, and sometimes fever.

Emma Easton, Head of Voluntary Partnerships at NHS England and NHS Improvement said “The VCSE sector has been instrumental during COVID-19 and other busy times at reducing pressure on the NHS.

“With a projected increase in respiratory viruses amongst children over the winter months, the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Fund is a fantastic opportunity to ensure that VCSE organisations can work alongside NHS Trusts to provide support for parents / carers whose children have developed complications from respiratory viruses such as bronchiolitis.

“The types of projects being funded range from Helplines to ensure that parents / carers can make informed decisions about their child’s illness, to direct support to families while their child is in hospital.”

To learn more about Koala NW and Little Lungs Wirral, visit: koalanw.co.uk/little-lungs-wirral.

Symptoms of RSV in children include:

  • Mild fever
  • Persistent cough
  • Runny nose
  • Working harder with their breathing

If your child has any of these symptoms, please contact your GP or dial 111.

What is Little Lungs?

The Little Lungs project is a partnership of voluntary organisations including Koala NW, Wirral Multicultural Organisation, Ferries Family Groups, Bee Wirral and The Foundation Years Trust - coming together to work with a clinical respiratory paediatric specialist.

Working in partnership with our hospital trust and primary care networks to provide information and support to respond to a potential surge in respiratory infections in children. Delivering a project that will provide information, education and support and leave a long-lasting legacy in our community that will last beyond the 6 month project.

Koala NW’s funding for the Little Lungs project is part of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Fund, which is jointly run by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and NHS England and NHS Improvement.  The fund is to provide extra support for children, families, and children’s respiratory and acute services during autumn/winter 2021, and to raise awareness of management of paediatric respiratory infections within communities that experience the greatest health inequalities. This is seen as a priority this year given the predicted increase in paediatric respiratory viral infections, during autumn/winter 2021.  

What is RSV?

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is the leading cause of bronchiolitis, an infection of the small airways in the lung, in babies and infants which make breathing harder and cause difficulty feeding.

Most children will have had it by their third birthday. Very young children and vulnerable children (usually under 3 months) are at higher risk of more serious illness because inflammation of their smaller airways can cause breathing difficulties.

For more information about RSV, visit: www.gov.uk/government/publications/respiratory-syncytial-virus-rsv-symptoms-transmission-prevention-treatment/respiratory-syncytial-virus-rsv-symptoms-transmission-prevention-treatment.