Houston area seeing spike in RSV cases

By Rachel McNeill, Anchor/Medical Expert, rmcneill@kprc.com
Published On: Jan 09 2014 06:07:34 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 09 2014 06:34:17 PM CST

A flu-like virus is at epidemic levels in Texas.  It is especially dangerous for babies. Rachel McNeill reports.

HOUSTON -

A flu-like virus is at epidemic levels in Texas.  It is especially dangerous for babies.

We've been talking about RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, for weeks. It is highly contagious and almost all children will get it before their second birthday.  But in some cases, it can be fatal in the smallest of patients.

RSV season peaks at the same time we're dealing with cold and flu season.  But doctors say RSV affects the lower respiratory tract.

"In general, in Texas, because every state is a little different, RSV season usually starts around the end of October or November, and goes until about January, sometimes February," says Dr. Kathrym Espana with Texas Children's Pediatrics.

When adults get RSV, it's like a common cold, but when babies get it, they often have trouble breathing, sending hundreds of Houston area children to the hospital with symptoms like fatigue, high fever, bluish color on the lips or fingernails, and difficulty feeding or decreased fluid intake.

"RSV causes lots of secretions, so what we're worried about is that they're really congested and they're not going to be able to eat, and obviously, the smaller the child, the easier they can get dehydrated," says Dr. Espana.

The most at risk are children in day care, who have school-age siblings, or live in crowded conditions.

The best prevention?  Dr. Espana says, "It is the same way you prevent a cold, try not to share drinks, try to wash your hands."

RSV is spread by coughs, or sneezes, even touching common surfaces.

Last month, Local 2 told you that scientists at the National Institutes of Health say they're close to a vaccine that could potentially save lives. Until now, there's not much in the way of treatment.  Patients usually recover within a week or two.

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