Doctors seeing spike in respiratory virus in children

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Doctors are seeing a spike in a respiratory virus that can cause serious problems for young children.

Doctors across the state are seeing a spike in a respiratory virus that can cause serious problems for infants and young children.

Dr. Christian Nechyba at Raleigh's Carolina Kids Pediatrics calls it a predictable part of the holiday season, the return of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

On Jan. 9, 2017, officials announced that WakeMed Children's Hospital and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit are currently restricting visitation for children under the age of 12 due to significant RSV in the community.

"For most older children, [RSV] is simply a bad cold," said Nechyba. "It's caused by virus and will go away. In little people, toddlers and especially babies, they can have more of a problem with wheezing or lung infection from RSV."

Dr. Cameron Wolfe at Duke University Hospital said his office has seen an uptick in RSV cases, which is typical for this time of year.

Wolfe said RSV is a big concern for very young infants who lack the structural lung defenses to help against it. While it is very rarely a big issue in adults, Wolfe said it can be fatal for the very young or immunosuppressed, such as premature babies or the lung and bone marrow transplant population.

"The most common reason that newborns get into that kind of trouble is from what's called apnea where they just stop breathing because they're sick," said Nechyba.

Just this week, after seeing two babies a day with RSV, Nechyba posted to the Carolina Kids Pediatrics Facebook page, warning parents to bring in their children if they see faster than normal breathing, prolonged fever, wheezing, or their child drinking less than normal.

"It's important to know there's no specific medication that treats RSV," said Nechyba. "What we're really treating is the complications of RSV- if a child is dehydrated, if they're having problems with their oxygen because their lungs are so inflamed, we can treat those things, but we can't treat the virus itself."

For more information on RSV from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/surveillance/nrevss/rsv/index.html

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