Babies at risk from contagious virus
12:54 AM CST on Saturday, January 7, 2006 By JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA-TV
Doctors say a severe outbreak of a highly contagious virus is affecting the most vulnerable in North Texas. Thousands of children have already become sick, with many who are hospitalized.
Non-stop coughing prompted Marie Pardo to bring her seven-week-old daughter Alexa to the hospital. "She had a hoarseness; she could hardly cry," Pardo said.
Alexa was diagnosed with RSV--respiratory syncytial virus--and she's not alone.
"We have seen 450 cases of RSV bronchiolitis, which is a large number," said Dr. Octavio Ramilo, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Medical Center Dallas. "The majority are very young babies, as you can imagine, and we've had a lot of hospitalizations."
Dr. Ramilo said this is a serious outbreak, and that assessment was brought into sharp focus at the hospital's asthma treatment room--packed with little patients getting breathing treatments for a virus that looks like a common cold in adults, but can be very dangerous in babies.
RSV infects almost every child before they turn two years old. Some 125,000 children are hospitalized each year, and 500 of them die. Ten percent of those who get RSV have long-term respiratory problems, including asthma.
Especially vulnerable are those born prematurely or with other health conditions.
The signs of serious infection include:
*difficult or rapid breathing
RSV causes airways to close and lungs to become cloudy and inflamed. Pneumonia can set in.
RSV is common during the winter season, when viruses spread because people are confined indoors. But doctors say they're baffled by the current outbreak considering the unseasonably warm weather in North Texas.
"Try to protect those babies," Dr. Ramilo urged. "During this season, don't let a lot of the family members manipulate the babies."
Marie Pardo is grateful she got her little girl to the hospital in time. "As soon as she gets to get this oxygen off, she gets to go home."