Parents and day care providers are struggling to keep on top of a virus among babies. Doctors say the RSV virus appears, at first, to be a cold. But babies and the elderly can have a hard time getting rid of the mucus. Many parents have been taking their children to emergency rooms.
Pediatricians say the virus is just about as common as a cold, and the CDC reports virtually everyone gets an RSV infection by age two.
Babies trying to get through a Goliath illness.
"In 27 years of day care, I've never seen it run through us like this," says Sherry Albright, owner of Wee Care day care in Joplin.
Albright usually has eight babies under her watch. But four of them are at home, one is in the hospital, all suffering from a laborious, chronic cough.
"The whole lining of the lungs, essentially sheds," says Dr. Kimra Ross, a pediatrician with Freeman Health System.
Ross says think of a really bad cold.
"It's a bad cold that involves the lower airways, in people as well," says Ross.
Respiratory synctial virus, or RSV, goes a step further, especially in babies.
"It's very hard for the babies to breathe. The small airways get irritated and inflamed and clogged. They have trouble maintaining their oxygen levels," says Ross.
"Runny nose and a cough. You don't normally take that seriously," says Albright.
But parents should take RSV seriously. Doctors can test for the virus, but not all of them do. So here's the key...
"If the child is breathing 60 or more times a minute, that's concerning. If between the ribs, you can see the skin pulling in, that's called retracting. We also worry about breathing out. So if they're grunting to push air out, that means they're having trouble," says Ross.
This year, doctors say they're noticing RSV's timing, not prevalence.
"It started a little more suddenly," says Ross.
But it seems to be affecting day care owners, like Albright, more now than in recent years. She knows of two other day cares that have temporary closed because of RSV.
"There's just no way to be sure it's gone," says Albright.
Doctors say if your child has RSV, be ready to deal with the symptoms for a while. The virus can last eight days, while the cough can linger for three weeks.
Doctors say the best way to prevent RSV is to do what you would do to prevent most other illnesses: Wash your hands, and cover your mouth while coughing and sneezing.
There is a drug meant to prevent severe RSV, but it can't help cure or treat the virus. Doctors say they rarely prescribe this drug because it's so expensive; more than $1,000 a dose.
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