Recognizing, preventing RSV in babies as Wisconsin cases grow

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 5:43 PM CST
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Hospitals across Wisconsin are seeing a jump in the number of babies being treated for RSV.

The virus actually affects people of all ages, but is most dangerous to infants under a year.

Dr. Nicole Giles of Marshfield Clinic Weston Center says she sees babies with RSV every year. But this year, the virus is hitting earlier and affecting more babies than usual.

"The RSV virus that we're seeing this year is a little bit more significant," Dr. Giles said.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) can start out as a simple cold.

"Then they become sicker relatively quickly. So retraction, skin sucking in between their ribs, sometimes they'll grunt, sometimes they'll bob their heads because they're working hard to breathe," she said.

The virus has certain qualities a doctor can hear and see.

"That's where we hear the wet, we call them ronchi sounds. Sometimes these kids with RSV have a certain look about them. They're tired, they're winded, they’re fatiguing quickly because they’ve been working hard to breathe," she said.

But it does not always require hospitalization.

"Needing oxygen, working hard to breathe, being dehydrated are big reasons to be admitted to the hospital," she said.

Kids typically recover after a few days in the hospital. But this year, it’s been worse, she said.

"More admissions, kids being sicker and requiring longer hospital stays," Dr. Giles said.

There's no vaccine, but you can take steps to prevent it.

"Covering your cough, sneezing or coughing into your elbow are really important. If your child has a fever, making sure they're not exposing other children at daycare or school for 24 hours until they're fever free," she said.

Dr. Giles says it's important to monitor a cold in an infant, and if their breathing worsens or they stop breathing for periods of time, take them to the emergency room right away.

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