Hospitals see increase in baby RSV cases

Updated: Jan. 5, 2017 at 10:31 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - As we get further into winter, doctors are seeing more and more cases of the highly contagious respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

"We're seeing children coming in from all over Northeast Ohio who are critically ill with RSV," said Alexandre Rotta, M.D., with Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

A runny nose, cough, and trouble breathing are a few of the things doctors said parents should be on the lookout for. The symptoms sound a lot like the common cold, which is why Rotta said it's almost impossible to identify RSV without taking a child to a pediatrician.

"More than 60 percent of children will have RSV in their first year," said Rotta. "It is by far the most common agent causing bronchitis, pneumonia, and respiratory conditions."

This time of year, doctors treat a lot of patients. The Cleveland Clinic has seen more than 400 RSV cases. At Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, they've had more than 100 critical cases this season.

"We support (patients) through the toughest part of their illness with mechanical ventilation or high-flow nasal cannula," said Rotta.

There isn't a treatment available and hundreds of kids die from the virus each year.

"RSV can be fatal and there are about 300 to 400 children who die every year in this country," Rotta said.

There are ways parents can prevent RSV:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Clean and disinfect hard surfaces
  • Avoid kissing your baby if you have cold symptoms
  • Keep your baby away from crowds

Prevention is very important, because Rotta said the virus is very contagious.

"If someone carrying RSV opens a door, RSV can be viable for four to six hours on a doorknob, for instance, and about 30 minutes for a handshake," he said.

Doctors said the virus typically lasts about a week, but critical cases can leave infants and babies in the hospital for more than a month. The elderly are also at risk because RSV can cause pneumonia. The RSV season typically runs from October through late April.

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