Increase in common, potentially harmful childhood illness reported


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on November 8, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 8 at 6:40 PM

AUSTIN -- It's a common childhood illness, so much so most people have had it by the age of two.
Yet doctors say respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is among the leading causes of infant viral death. This is the season for RSV, and local healthcare systems are seeing an increase in cases.    

Sean Evans brought his son Aiden to the Scott & White Pediatric Clinic in Round Rock. The seven-month-old is having trouble with his left eye. Evans says keeping a constant eye on children is vital and yet nearly impossible.

"You try to do the best that you can to protect them," said Evans.

Evans is aware of respiratory syncytial virus that attacks the nose and lung linings.

"In most people it just creates a really bad cold," said Bradley Berg, M.D., the pediatric clinic's medical director. "You'll get a lot of coughing, congestion, sneezing, coughing and low-grade fever. It lasts for about one to two weeks and then goes away."  

Berg says the virus can become far more serious in children six months or younger, kids born premature or with lung or heart disease.

"Those kids can have a lot more problems with it, because it basically creates a viral pneumonia," said Berg.

So how do you know if your child is suffering from RSV or another seasonal illness like the flu? Dr. Berg says there's really no way of knowing without testing. Doctors can swab the inside of the patient's nose and send that to a lab. Those results will determine if your child needs to go to a hospital where oxygen, nose suction and even asthma-type treatments can be given.

Evans says the fact RSV can produce simple cold symptoms or something far more serious just emphasizes the difficulties parents face keeping their kids healthy this time of year.

"It's a hard argument," he said. "It's hard discussions when you're exposed even at a hospital."

Doctor berg says 25 to 45 percent of children who come down with RSV will develop pneumonia. However he says only one percent of those patients will require a trip to the hospital.

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