How to Notice Potentially Deadly Flu-Like Virus in Children

Most parents have never heard of what is being called an epidemic by health officials

By Alli Friedman and Bruce Hensel
|  Thursday, Jan 30, 2014  |  Updated 3:59 PM PDT
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Flu-Like Virus Threatens Infants, Children

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During an especially virulent flu season in which cases of the virus are up 150 percent, another virus is infecting and killing infants at an alarming rate.

Almost all children will be infected by RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, by their second birthday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5 Things to Know About the Flu Outbreak

In mid-January, more than 20 percent of children tested for RSV in California were confirmed to have the virus, according to the CDC.

Hospitals and emergency rooms are seeing cases of RSV higher than usual for this time of year, and many parents are unaware of the epidemic.

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It might look like a cold at first, with cough and congestion, but if symptoms rapidly worsen, a baby should be taken to a doctor. Early detection might save a child’s life.

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Cough
  • Cold
  • Congestion
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Difficulty breathing

If a child has RSV, they may need to be admitted to the pediatric ICU, where experts provide specific treatment.

“Suctioning the nose, as simple as it sounds, oxygen and IV hydration may save the baby’s life,” said Dr. Christopher Babbitt, with Millers Children’s Hospital Long Beach.

Since RSV is highly contagious, babies with the virus should be kept at home until they are completely well and all members of the family should wash their hands as often as possible. That simple measure can reduce the spread of RSV by 50 percent.

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