RSV soars above epidemic level in Kentucky - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

RSV soars above epidemic level in Kentucky

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Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is the most common cause of the cold but can be deadly for babies born premature. Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is the most common cause of the cold but can be deadly for babies born premature.
Camryn Jones Camryn Jones
Stacy Stewart Stacy Stewart
Dr. Dan Stewart Dr. Dan Stewart

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A respiratory virus that parents have come to fear during winter months has hit epidemic levels in Kentucky.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is the most common cause of the cold but can be deadly for babies born premature.

RSV reaches epidemic levels when 10 percent of children tested for it are positive. The virus was in 32 percent of children tested as of this week, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

"Hopefully, it will dissipate over the next several weeks and not last for months," said Dr. Dan Stewart, director of the neonatal intensive care unit in the Center for Women and Infants at University of Louisville Hospital.

Most children get RSV before they enter preschool, but babies born premature are at greater risk of severe symptoms because their lungs aren't fully developed, Stewart said.

Six-year-old Camryn Jones of Henderson, Ky., was born three months early and spent weeks in the NICU. She developed RSV after leaving the hospital, said Stacy Stewart, Camryn's mother.

"It was terrifying and horrifying at the same time, because I had no idea what RSV was -- had never heard of it," she said.

Stewart and her daughter made monthly trips from Henderson to see doctors in Louisville. Camryn got better but still needs daily breathing treatments, Stewart said.

"We're always listening to the way she breathes," she said. "You don't know if she's getting RSV again or if it's her asthma."

Dr. Stewart said there's no cure for the virus. There is a shot, but it's expensive and provided mostly to premature babies, he said.

Parents should focus on preventing the spread of the virus by making hand washing a routine and by keeping a sick child away from school and daycare, he said.

Stacy Stewart said she monitors therapists and family members for signs of a cough or sneezing before they come in the house, because Camryn is at risk for the virus.

"We try to protect her as much as possible and let her be a kid as much as she can," Stewart said.

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