East TN doctors stress protecting babies from RSV infection during holidays

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It literally takes a baby’s breath away, Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV, which is a contagious lung infection and East Tennessee doctors are stressing we take precautions ahead of the holidays.

The CDC estimates 57,000 children are hospitalized because of an RSV infection every year in the U.S.

In most cases RSV has mild cold-like symptoms but it can be dangerous for some babies.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, doctors at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital say they saw close to 50 RSV cases.

“And I anticipate that number will just continue to keep rising and I think year to date so far we’re at 170 cases,” said Dr. Heather Radu with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Radu says RSV is a scary virus and can be deadly, “Last year we had a really bad RSV season. We had several patients that ended up in the intensive care unit due to that illness.”

Newborns, infants, and babies with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for RSV.

“They have tiny passages in general. So, their noses are teeny tiny and they breathe through their nose, so when they get a little bit of congestion that makes everything more difficult and they can’t breathe through their nose. They haven’t learned to breathe through their mouth and infants have a lot tinier breathing tubes than we do,” said Dr. Radu.

Babies who have the infection will lose their appetite, have a runny nose and a cough.

“Really working to breathe, their belly goes up and down, they’ll be pulling in to breathe at their ribs,” said Dr. Radu.

Doctors stress everyone take care of little ones this holiday season by:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose with unwashed hands
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect your home
  • Stay home if you’re sick

“Don’t kiss the babies. Don’t love on the babies if you’ve got any kind of runny nose, cough, congestion. And if you’re a mom, absolutely feel empowered to say, ‘Hey, if you’re sick please do not come near the baby,'” added Dr. Radu.

There’s no vaccine yet preventing RSV, however the CDC says scientists are working on developing one.

Older adults and those with chronic heart or lung disease are also at risk of getting RSV. The CDC estimates more than 177,000 older adults are hospitalized and 14,000 of them die every year in the U.S. because of an RSV infection.

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