BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus can potentially be deadly in infants, and doctors say the season for the virus started early this year.
The virus is the number one cause of hospitalization in infants.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 57,000 children under 5-years-old are hospitalized by RSV each year.
RSV season starts around the same time as flu season, but doctors say it is easier to spread.
“It’s just as common, if not more common than the flu, so even though we are definitely pushing for kids to get their flu shots and focusing on flu kind of prevention this time of year, November, December, January is the heart of RSV season,” says Elizabeth Luke, MD with Children’s of Alabama.
The virus is known as the common cold, and symptoms are not usually alarming.
However, in infants, the virus can become worrisome.
RSV can lead up to more severe illness like pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
“It can result in death. That is usually not the case that happens, but I have seen kids that get admitted, especially that 6 months and under to the ICU requiring help breathing and that sort of thing,” says Luke.
Luke says in infants 6-months and younger, pay close attention if the child has difficulty breathing.
The CDC reports the virus is highly contagious. Luke says that’s because RSV is easily spread.
Luke says it’s important to practice regular preventative measures like frequently washing your hands.
“With RSV, what makes it more, like why hand washing is so important, is because they can cough or touch something and touch a hard surface, and then somebody else can touch that same surface, and even never having been exposed to the actual person who has RSV can still get it.”
Most RSV cases clear up naturally, especially in older children and adults.
Luke says if you suspect your child is sick and notice any difficulty breathing, to contact your healthcare provider.
If you want to learn more about RSV, you can read more by visiting the CDC’s website.