Highly contagious RSV can be dangerous for infants

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common childhood illness that takes a baby’s breath away.

Dr. Lise Christensen, an ER physician at Children’s Hospital, says RSV is highly contagious and can be dangerous for infants. RSV infections usually begin during the fall and hospitalize nearly 60,000 children under the age of five every year, according to the CDC.

Christensen says they are seeing more infants and young children with RSV at Children’s Hospital, which is normal for the time of year. So far, 25 children have tested positive for RSV since August.

RSV is a contagious infection of the lungs and breathing passages, spread through droplets containing the virus when someone coughs or sneezes.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Coughing & Sneezing
  • Nasal Congestion and Runny Nose (most significant symptom for babies)
  • Fever
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Refusal to eat or drink

Christensen said RSV can cause other respiratory illnesses, like bronchiolitis or pneumonia, and can cause rapid dehydration if a child refuses to eat or drink.

You should take your child to the emergency room immediately if he or she is struggling to breath, has a high fever (or greater than 100.4 in infants less than eight weeks old), if you have difficulty feeding, or if your child shows signs of dehydration. Those signs include sunken eyes, lack of tears or urine output or listlessness.

Christensen adds that prevention is key. Remember to wash hands regularly and clean surfaces with disinfectant. Also, keep school-aged children with a cold away from babies until symptoms have passed.

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