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The spread of a highly contagious virus with similar symptoms to COVID-19 has caused warnings that as social distancing rules begin to relax, 2021 could be a year of illness and disease.

A surge of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus is already facing South-East Queensland, which primarily affects children between 18 months and 2 years of age.

The head of the Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association, Roger Faint, said that until now, paediatric wards on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast had been relatively quiet.

The rise in presentations was likely driven by children returning to school, he said.

“The hospital wards have not been busy in paediatric wards up until the last month or so,” Dr Faint said.

“There’s been less diarrhea, less pneumonia, and less respiratory infection.

“As time has moved on, people got more relaxed — I suspect that’s a large part of what’s happening.”

So far this year, the emergency department of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital has recorded 12 RSV cases.

Last year, there were three during the same period and zero the year before.

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