LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - There’s been a huge increase in the number of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis cases over the last couple months locally, according to health officials with Norton Healthcare.
Over 50 people diagnosed with RSV in the Louisville area have been hospitalized recently, prompting Norton Children’s Hospital to change their visitation policy to limit the spread of the virus. Until further notice, only a patient’s four primary caregivers can visit.
From September to just before the Thanksgiving holiday, 318 people were diagnosed with the virus. Through the same period in 2018, there were just 98 people diagnosed. RSV is a common cold that may cause symptoms like coughing, nasal congestion, wheezing and labored breathing.
While healthy adults and older children usually recover in a week or two, it can be extremely dangerous for infants.
Only 24 of the cases diagnosed locally were in adults, most were in young children.
Nurse Practitioner Carly Oliver said she diagnoses about 2 to 3 cases of RSV per day in her pediatric patients.
“It’s been about a 200% increase than in recent years,” Oliver said. “We’ve seen lots of kiddos hospitalized for it and it’s mainly the infants, they just can’t get those secretions up like older people can.”
The virus can lead to other, life-threatening infections in infants. It’s the most common cause of pneumonia in children younger than one-year-old and infants are also at risk of respiratory failure.
"This can certainly be fatal in children younger than 1, so if the parents notice that they’re having that increase work of breathing, having any color changes, the cough is getting worse, anything like that do not be afraid to seek care from your pediatrician,” Oliver said.
There’s no antibiotic for RSV, but doctors can help with supportive care. They recommend bulb suctioning and Pedialyte.
"The best way to prevent it is really good hand washing, staying at home if you’re not feeling well (and) keeping your kiddos home from school or daycare if you suspect that they’re sick,” Oliver said.