Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the primary diseases affecting the children below two years. It is prevalent during the winter seasons. RSV infections start by the end of November and the incidence increases and reaches a peak by the month of December.
Deborah Lehman, MD, associate director of pediatric infectious diseases and HIV at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center says that parents have limited knowledge about the disease and this situation has to change.
Statistics show that about 125,000 children are hospitalized due to RSV infection every year in the US. The virus also causes pneumonia and bronchiolitis (a swelling of the small airways) and may be associated with wheezing. Out of these patients who has contracted RSV infection 500 children die every year because they suffer from serious RSV infections.
The virus can be easily contracted from an infected person. The virus is viable for several hours on a surface of table or playpen, or on unwashed hands.
The symptoms of RSV infections are running nose, cough and mild fever from which the body recuperates within five to seven days. In case of serious infections symptoms are wheezing, fast breathing and/or difficulty in breathing, irritability and restlessness, poor appetite and high fever 100.4 degrees) or higher.
RSV infections are very deadly to premature babies or to those children who are discharged after a long stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for the treatment of chronic lung disease.
Charles Simmons, MD, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Neonatology at Cedars-Sinai says that children below the age group of two should be vaccinated against RSV infection. The vaccination progamme includes a series of monthly injections (Synagis) in the beginning of the viral season and continue for five months, till the season wanes. But the vaccine dos not provide long-term immunity o the child.
Adults also can contract the disease leading to hoarseness. In case of older patients who have weak pulmonary systems, RSV infections have increased their death rates. being a common symptom that may go unrecognized as a sign of the virus. Adults serve as a reservoir of infection in the community and also transmit it to children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends certain precautionary measures to be taken by the parents like washing the hands before handling the baby, to stay away from people suffering from cold and fever, to avoid carrying the baby to crowded shopping malls, to immunize the baby against influenza and to keep the baby away from smoke to prevent RSV infection and other viral respiratory infections.