MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is warning parents that RSV is on the rise.
The hospital said Thursday they’re seeing an elevated number of cases right now just as flu season kicks into gear.
RSV, short for respiratory syncytial virus, bears similar symptoms to the common cold and spreads through physical contact. It can lead to serious illness for children and babies.
“When you hear people say, ‘Don’t kiss the baby,’ this is the virus they’re trying to raise awareness about,” Le Bonheur tweeted Thursday.
Babies younger than a year experience the most serious illnesses. According to Le Bonheur, RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia and hospitalization in infants.
The past two years, doctors at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital have seen an above average number of RSV cases.
The next few weeks will tell if 2018 will mark the third straight year.
“The virus tends to transmit better when it’s cold,” said D. John McCullers at Le Bonheur. “The viruses live longer in the cold.”
After a dip in cases over the summer, doctors at Le Bonheur reported seeing RSV cases re-appear in late September.
The number of cases spiked in late October and again just before Thanksgiving. Symptoms of RSV include a congested or runny nose, a dry cough, low-grade fever, and a sore throat.
Dr. McCullers says if little ones start wheezing or having trouble breathing, see a doctor.
“Every kid will have RSV by the age of two and about 1 and 100 will have to have medical attention and often hospitalization,” Dr. McCullers said.
Most adults and kids older than 2 recover in a couple of weeks.
But Dr. McCullers says infants and toddlers with small airways are at a greater risk of breathing problems and dehydration and should be monitored closely.
To prevent the spread of RSV, wash your hands regularly, especially before being around babies; wash your child’s toys regularly; sneeze into a tissue; and keep people with colds, including older siblings, away from babies.
As peak flu season approaches, typically falling between January and March, doctors hope to prompt the reluctant or the forgetful with a reminder that it's not too late to get that flu shot.
“This flu season for us is still early in the season,” Dr. McCullers said. ‘We have seen some cases, but we haven’t seen a big spike. We typically see flu spike after kids come back to school from the Christmas holidays.”
Nationally 80 percent of the children who died from the flu last year were not vaccinated against the flu, according to Mississippi state health officials.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated last flu season, 48.8 million people got the flu.
Doctors said the best line of defense is still the flu shot. Protection from the virus starts in as little as a week.
“We typically see two or three strains circulate every year and one of them may not start circulating until March, February or March,” Dr. McCullers said. “So, get the vaccine now your protected by what’s starting to happen and also by later strains that will come through.”
Though October is usually the best time to get vaccinated, Dr. McCullers says it’s never too late to get the vaccine.