01-19-2011 (Dayton, OH) -
With flu season upon us, many parents may overlook the possibility of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as a possible infection in their children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia among infants and children younger than 1 year of age. Illness begins most frequently with fever, runny nose, cough and sometimes wheezing. During their first RSV infection, between 25 percent and 40 percent of infants and young children have signs or symptoms of bronchiolitis or pneumonia, and 0.5 percent to 2 percent require hospitalization.
So far this season, however, Dayton Children’s has seen the lowest numbers of RSV since 2005. On average, 100 to 130 positive tests are identified in the month of December in the microbiology laboratory at Dayton Children’s. In December 2010, only 43 positive tests were identified, a decrease of more than three times the previous year. A similar trend has carried into January.
According to Sherman Alter, MD, medical director of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s, there could be several reasons for the low numbers of positive RSV tests. These reasons include the possibility that a smaller number of infants are being sent for testing (possibly due to less serious cases that can be managed without hospitalization) or it could simply turn out to be a later “sick season” this year.
Most children recover from illness in 8 to 15 days. The majority of children hospitalized for RSV infection are younger than 6 months of age.
RSV frequently begins with a fever, runny nose, cough and wheezing. Many times it worsens to symptoms of heavy coughing, rapid breathing and wheezing. RSV is the second most common reason children are treated at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton.
Children who are at higher risk for RSV include:
- Children who were born prematurely
- Children with congenital heart disease
- Babies with lung disease
- Children with abnormalities of the immune system
Almost all children get RSV at least once as an infant. If a child has had RSV once, they can still catch it again, but the symptoms probably will be milder than before.
RSV is contagious, and it can be spread by contact with anyone who has RSV. RSV is spread from respiratory secretions through close contact with infected persons or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. As of now, there is no vaccine for RSV.
To prevent RSV, Dr. Alter and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the following:
- Wash hands thoroughly.
- Keep your baby away from anyone who has a cold, fever or runny nose.
- Keep your baby away from crowded areas like shopping malls.
- Keep your baby away from tobacco smoke.
- For high-risk infants, participation in child care should be restricted during RSV season whenever possible.
- All high-risk infants and their contacts should be immunized against influenza beginning at 6 months of age.
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