Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) program

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Program at the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre is part of a provincial program designed to help reduce the risk of serious RSV disease by educating families about the illness and providing prevention strategies to reduce the risk of infection.

RSV is a very common virus that infects the lungs and airways. It is most common in infants and young children but can affect any one at any age.

What we do

Our team identifies babies and children who are at high-risk of developing complications from RSV infection. The identified babies and children will then receive a monthly injection, December through April, to decrease the risk of RSV infection.

The injection is called Palivizumab (synagis). It is an antibody that helps to reduce severity of breathing issues caused by RSV. This injection is not a vaccine. Your child can still become infected with RSV after the injections. If your child does become infected, symptoms may not be as severe as if the injections were not given.

Our team provides support and education to families and health-care professionals about RSV disease and provides prevention strategies on how to reduce risk of infection from the virus.

Who we see

Our multidisciplinary team works together to identify patients who needs RSV prophylaxis. These children would be at high risk of developing severe complications from contracting RSV.

Babies and children at much higher risk of developing serious complications from RSV disease include:

  • Premature babies born less than 30 weeks gestation.
  • Children less than two years old with chronic lung disease.
  • Children less than two years old with congenital heart disease.
  • Babies living in isolated or remote northern communities born less than 36 weeks gestation.
  • Other children at risk as determined by a health provider. A letter from health-care professional providing medical justification for request is required. Requests are reviewed on an individual basis.

Within the Eastern Health region, patients who qualify for RSV Prophylaxis will receive monthly Palivizumab injections during the RSV season, provided through the Janeway Medical Day Care team.

Qualifying patients living outside the Eastern Health Region can receive Palivizumab through a family doctor, pediatrician or nurse practitioner.

Our team

Our team is comprised of the following health-care professionals:

  • Pediatricians
  • Provincial nurse coordinators
  • Cardiologists
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Pharmacists
  • Infection controls
  • Immunologists
  • Neonatologists
  • Family practice physicians

How to access this service

Access to the Provincial RSV Program is by referral only. Referrals can be made to the program through Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, by family physicians and/or other specialists that provide care to your child. See referrals.

If your baby or child is eligible for the RSV program, you will be contacted by the provincial nurse coordinator prior to the start of the RSV season, usually November or early December. The nurse will provide education on RSV and measures used to reduce risk of infection from RSV.

The nurse will also inform you at what facility your baby or child’s injection will take place.

If the appointment is in Medical Daycare at the Janeway Children’s Rehabilitation Centre, a list of your appointments for all four clinic visits will be mailed out to you prior to your first appointment.

Appointments outside of the Janeway Children’s Rehabilitation Centre will be arranged through the facility where the service will take place.

Where we are

Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre
3rd floor (3J314)
300 Prince Philip Drive
St. John’s, NL
A1B 3V6

Hours of operation

Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

All appointments outside the metro region are made in consultation with the facility where the child will be receiving the service.

How to reach us

Telephone: 709-777- 4403

Frequently asked questions

What is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus, a very common virus that infects the lungs and airways. It is most common in infants and young children but can affect any one at any age.

RSV infections most often occur during cold weather. The peak season in Canada usually lasts from November to April. RSV usually causes mild symptoms but in premature babies and children who are under the age of two (2) with certain lung conditions or congenital heart disease, it can cause serious breathing problems.

Symptoms of RSV can include:
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Other cold like symptoms

RSV is very contagious. This virus is very common in crowded living areas and daycares. It can be spread by physical contact such as kissing, touching or shaking hands with an infected person. RSV can also be spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs and can live on surfaces for many hours.

Can I reduce the risk of my child getting RSV?

There are ways to reduce your baby’s or child’s risk of infection from RSV:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, hand rinse before touching a baby or small child.
  • If you have a cold or fever, gently hug instead of kissing your child or baby.
  • Keep away from your immediate household if you have cold symptoms or a fever.
  • Try to avoid large crowds or gatherings, such as birthday parties and malls.
  • Do not smoke around your baby or child, and ban smoking from inside your home.

Are there side effects to the Palivizumab (synagis) injection?

After your baby or child receives the injection, you will be asked to wait 15 minutes to make sure that there are no severe reactions.

The following are normal reactions you may see after the Palivizumab (synagis) injection:

  • Swelling and/or redness at the injection site.
  • Fever (temperature above 38.5 C or higher) for 1-2 days after the injection.
  • A small painless lump at the injection site that may take up to 1-2 weeks to disappear.

What you can do after your injection:

  • Dress your baby or child in loose, light clothing.
  • Give them plenty of fluids to drink.
  • If fever occurs, give a fever reducing medication.
  • Apply a cool, damp cloth to the injection site.

Severe side effects are extremely rare. If your child develops swelling around the face, lips or throat, develops severe itching, has difficulty breathing, becomes extremely drowsy or unresponsive and/or develops hives/rash, this may indicate that your baby or child is having an anaphylactic reaction and you should immediately call 911.

*Always report unexpected reactions to your health-care provider*

Can my child have Palivizumab (synagis) injection after receiving an immunization?

Yes, Palivizumab (synagis) does not interfere with immunizations and can be administered at the same time as vaccines.

My child has a cold. Can my child still receive the Palivizumab (Synagis) injection?

If your baby or child is having cold-like symptoms and or is unwell, please contact your health-care provider prior to coming to a clinic.

A mild febrile illness such as mild upper respiratory infection is not usually a reason to delay the injection of Palivizumab (synagis). However, a moderate or severe acute infection or febrile illness may be reason to delay receiving a Palivizumab (synagis) injection.

Your baby/child will be assessed by the health-care team prior to receiving the injection.

What number do I call to cancel or change my child’s appointment?

The RSV clinic appointments are only booked on specific days and times. It is recommended, if possible, that you attend your baby’s or child’s appointment on the day and time provided.

  • For the Janeway Children’s Rehabilitation Centre: if you are unable to make the appointment, please call the nurse coordinator at 709-777-4403 or Medical Day care at 709-777-4332.
  • For outside the metro region: Please contact the facility where your baby’s or child’s appointment has been arranged. See a list of facilities here.
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Last updated: 2022-06-22