WakeMed doctors seeing increase of respiratory virus in infants

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RSV is particularly worrisome for infants and young children. (WTVD)

Pediatricians at WakeMed's Children's Emergency Dept. are seeing more cases of a respiratory virus that can cause serious problems for infants this year than compared to years past.

The holiday season is the typical time of year when doctors see an uptick in Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV. However, Dr. Samy Saad, Pediatric Emergency Physician at WakeMed, has been busier than usual diagnosing and treating the virus that causes bronchiolitis.

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.

"We intubated more kids this year specifically compared to the last 4 or 5 years," said Saad.

It's unclear what's made this year worse than others for RSV, which can lead to severe lung infection in children under two years old, especially babies under six months or those born prematurely.

"It is very hard to tell because most of the time it's presented as a cold: cough, congestion, fever, wheezing," Saad said of the symptoms parents should watch for. "But RSV will last three to four weeks."

Saad said there are more specific signs parents would notice if their child has RSV.

"If the child is breathing like 60 times per minutes or faster, you see their ribs getting sucked in and out," he said. "If the baby's doing that, will stop eating and drinking and they get dehydrated."

There's no specific treatment for RSV, so doctors are treating the complications of the virus. Saad said early diagnosis is key to helping a child recover and preventing their condition from growing more dire.

"Sometimes it's very hard to predict what's gonna happen in the next few hours," said Saad. "If they feel that the baby's working very hard to breathe, they need to come anytime, in the middle of the night. They should not wait."

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