Common Virus: Deadly to Infants

2-10-05 – Parents, striving to protect their children, often miss a common and potentially deadly threat that sends thousands of babies to the hospital every year in the U.S.

Physicians at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center say prevention and early detection of a virus known as RSV is vital. The symptoms, similar to a cold, can quickly turn severe for babies.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus is not serious in adults and older children. However, RSV can be very dangerous to infants that are less than six months old or prematurely born. Children with chronic lung or heart disease are also at a greater risk.

About 200,000 infants a year are hospitalized because of RSV in the U.S. and between 200 and 500 die because of the virus.

Experts recommend parents look for the following warning signs:
- Your baby can’t breathe well
- Your baby makes a wheezing sound trying to breathe
- Your baby is breathing very fast
- Choking while eating in a way that is not normal is another sign

Symptoms of RSV infection resemble those of a cold which include fever, runny nose and congestion. At the onset, the breathing problems (described above) may emerge after several days. If you notice these signs, contact your doctor immediately.

RSV is preventable. Doctors recommend always washing your hands before touching your baby and ask others to do the same. Try to keep older siblings away from the infant especially they have a runny nose, cold or fever.

Also, avoid taking the baby out to crowded areas and never allow anyone to smoke around your infant.

An anti-viral medication can help protect against serious RSV infection, but the medicine is not recommended for every baby. It does not prevent getting RSV, it only prevents the severe consequences of the virus.