Uptick in respiratory virus harmful to babies

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan doctors say they are seeing a spike in confirmed cases of a respiratory virus that is especially dangerous for infants.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an RSV season come on as strong and as in big of numbers as we have this year,” pediatric hospitalist Dr. Dan McGee told News 8 at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids Monday.

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says typically causes cold-like symptoms, but young children and adults 65 and older can experience severe lung infections.

“One of the problems with RSV in newborns and young infants is that it can cause severe respiratory problems to the point that they need intensive care,” McGee explained. “Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for RSV. This is something they’re working on, but it’s years away from us seeing one.”

According to the CDC’s nationwide analysis, “more than 57,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection. Additionally, about 177,000 older adults are hospitalized annually with an RSV infection, and about 14,000 of them die from it.”

“RSV is not a reportable event to the CDC in the way that influenza is reportable, but what I can tell you is talking to colleagues around the country is that everyone is seeing a large number of RSV, larger than in most other years,” McGee added.

Like protecting against any illness, McGee recommends being cautious and proactive.

“There’s no real way to keep your child from getting RSV if they’re exposed to it, but what you can do is don’t let people kiss your baby, don’t take your baby out in public if they’re going to be around other sick people and don’t let sick people into your home,” he said.

He also advised people to get vaccinated against influenza as he discussed the latest flu numbers.