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RSV Awareness for Families

What is RSV? RSV is Respiratory Syncytial Virus. It is a very common virus, but more problematic and serious than a mere cold. RSV is contracted by virtually every child by the time he/she reaches 24 months of age. RSV is the leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in babies and the leading cause of hospitalization in infants under one year of age. By 12 months of age, approximately 67% of all children have had RSV, whether it has been formally diagnosed or not.

Children who were born premature (36 weeks or younger) are at greater risk for contracting RSV, as are those who have had chronic illnesses, or were a product of multiple birth delivery. Children under 8 weeks of age, those who attend daycare, are male, were not breastfed, are subjected to cigarette smoke, or who have school-aged siblings also stand an increased risk for contracting this illness.

RSV in older children and adults will typically appear as nothing more than a cold. But babies and toddlers could have more serious complications. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that approximately 125,000 children are hospitalized for RSV related illnesses. Sadly, death results in 2% of children who develop RSV annually.

Parents should look for coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, wheezing and rapid breathing. This illness can progress rapidly and can cause a turn for the worse within very short periods of time. RSV season is from October through April, roughly the same time period in which flu season occurs. Ironically, RSV symptoms so closely mimic the flu, that many flu sufferers are actually RSV patients unbeknownst to them. RSV is highly contagious and is easily spread amongst family members.

RSV can be prevented by frequent hand washing. RSV lives on surfaces such as door knobs, faucets, handles, coins, or other hand-held objects for up to 24 hours. Children are the biggest source for RSV contagion so keep hands washed, frequently wipe down community property, and use tissues to help contain secretions. Keep older children away from infants if they have cold or flu-like symptoms, avoid crowds and avoid letting infants come in contact with cigarette smoke.

Because RSV is a serious illness that can be mistaken for a cold or the flu, if you suspect your child has RSV, immediately discuss treatment options with your pediatrician. Discuss prevention if you have a high-risk baby. Synagis was approved in the late 90ís to help prevent serious RSV complications. It is administered once a month during RSV season for approximately five office visits. Contact your pediatrician for more information, or if you do not have insurance, contact the MedImmune Assistance Program toll free at 1-877-480-8082 or 1-877-633-4411.

Written by StorkNet Staff Writer Kim Green-Spangler

**For more information about RSV, visit RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) FAQs in our NICU Cubby

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