Pneumonia virus spreading rapidly (Japan Times, Sep. 22, 2011)


The number of respiratory syncytial virus infections, which cause serious pneumonia in infants, are expanding, according to a study by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

While the RS virus usually hits epidemic levels in winter, cases have been rising since around June at the fastest pace since 2004, when relevant data became available, the institute said Wednesday, based on reports from 3,000 pediatric institutions nationwide.

“The RS virus increases in severity among young children who are experiencing their first infection, and its infectiousness is strong,” Yoshinori Yasui, senior researcher at the institute, said. “People, including doctors and nursery school teachers, need to be aware that it has already been going around.”

The number of confirmed cases came to 1,321 in the week from Sept. 5 to 11, some 1.6 times more than in the same period of 2008, when it reached 836, the previous record, the institute said in a preliminary report.

Around 20,000 infants are hospitalized annually due to pneumonia caused by the RS virus.