LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Doctors in Louisville are seeing a huge jump in respiratory syncytial virus, also called RSV; the fact that more cases are showing up now could mean trouble for the holiday season.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually includes symptoms such as nasal drainage, congestion, wheezing, and some labored breathing. Fever may be present, and dehydration is common because of increased effort in breathing. A major complication is respiratory failure.
RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than age one in the United States.
Most adults and children recover in a week or so but, RSV can be fatal for babies especially those born prematurely.
“It’s a lot more dangerous for the younger child, especially if they have a history of being premature,” Dr. Sayeed Khan of Norton Children’s Fern Creek said. “Their anatomy is much smaller. A lot of times all of those secretions can be pretty overwhelming.”
Since September, Norton Healthcare has diagnosed about 200 cases of the cold-like virus. Compare that to 58 during this time last year. RSV season typically peaks in late December through mid-February, so this is above-normal activity.
Norton says all but about a dozen of the recent cases were in children.
Because RSV is a virus, antibiotics won’t cure it; it’s more of a matter of managing symptoms.
“Getting rid of the excess mucus is the important part,” Dr. Khan said. “Suctioning before and after feeding, along with before and after sleeping, helps tremendously. Hydration is also vital. Pedialyte is beneficial, as formula and milk are thicker and harder for children to tolerate. Cough medications should be avoided.”
Louisville mother Carolyn Hannan is familiar with RSV. Her 22-month-old daughter Katherine was recently diagnosed with it.
“She had a 102.6 fever,” Hannan said. “I basically took her straight to the pediatrician’s office. It was scary. She was actually born a preemie, and during flu and RSV seasons I remember that time being educated to keep her out of public because she could end up in the hospital and it was life-threatening.”
Hannan says Katherine is doing better now after several days of rest.
"Keep an eye on them," Hannan said. "We all need to just wash our hands and use hand sanitizer and if you are sick don't leave your house."
If your child is displaying symptoms of RSV, it's a good idea to take them to their pediatrician for testing. However, if they're really struggling to breathe, a trip to the emergency room might be in order.
Upper respiratory illnesses are common around the holidays as families and friends come together to celebrate, and RSV is no exception.
"Ideally, anyone with cold-like symptoms shouldn't interact with children at high risk for RSV, including premature infants, kids younger than 2 years with chronic lung or heart conditions, and children with weakened immune systems."
Dr. Khan says you should also avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and utensils with others.
For more information on RSV click here.