Flu-like viruses affect babies at epidemic level

By Rachel McNeill, Anchor/Medical Expert, rmcneill@kprc.com
Published On: Mar 05 2013 06:05:02 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 05 2013 06:45:33 PM CST

March 5, 2013: Pediatricians across Houston have been warning parents that Respiratory Syncytial Virus is at epidemic levels in Texas. Rachel McNeill reports.

HOUSTON -

Pediatricians across Houston have been warning parents for weeks that Respiratory Syncytial Virus is at epidemic levels in Texas.

Doctors say RSV is very common, highly contagious and can even be fatal in the youngest of patients.

"It's actually been a pretty significant year," said Dr. Stephen Welty, Chief of Neonatology at Texas Children's Hospital.

Welty said the cases are worse for younger children.

Baby Jayden was only 5-months-old when he was admitted to TCH for RSV coupled with a slight case of pneumonia.

"He coughs so much that he will start to turn purple from lack of oxygen, and by the time he is done coughing, he is gasping for air," said Brianna Villasan, Jayden's mother.

RSV season peaks at the same time as cold and flu, but Welty said the difference is RSV affects the lower respiratory tract.

"That means instead of up in the nose and the mouth, it's down in the airways and when the airways are inflamed and swollen, it's tough to get air to pass and go both ways. So it can actually act like they kind of have asthma. They breathe hard," said Welty.

Other symptoms of severe RSV include:

  • Fatigue
  • High fever
  • Bluish color on lips or fingernails
  • Difficulty feeding or decreased fluid intake

Those most at risk are children who are in daycare, have school-aged siblings or live in crowded conditions.

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

Frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces can help.

"One big thing is, don't smoke. Don't have your babies around people that smoke," said Welty.

Welty expects cases of RSV to taper off by the end of March.

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