Hospitals Report Spike in Respiratory Virus That Can be Dangerous for Young Kids

The virus can be serious for infants and older adults and can often lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia

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Hospitals across the Chicago area are reporting a spike in cases of a respiratory virus that can be dangerous for young children.

Several hospitals, including Lurie Children’s Hospital in both Chicago and DuPage County, Edward Hospital in Naperville and others, reported a “high” number of respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV.

The virus can be serious for infants and older adults and can often lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

“The tricky part with RSV is that it can be like a common cold for many people,” said Dr. Jennifer Matczak, a pediatric hospitalist at Central DuPage Hospital. "In some children it’s very significant. It’s hard to tell the difference between what is just the cold and what is RSV.”

Doctors say the virus, which is extremely contagious, is common but cases can range from mild to severe and re-infection can sometimes also occur.

Making matters even more challenging, hospitals across the Chicago area say they are full, particularly with an influx of ill children.

“Hospitals are very full,” Matczak said. “It is a very common infection this time of the year, but especially this year it seems especially significant for young babies, especially less than 6 months of age.”

Apryl Panagiotopoulos said her 4-week-old daughter was diagnosed with RSV last week, and a trip to the emergency room meant the family had wait several hours just to be seen.

“We got [to Lurie Children’s Central DuPage Hospital] and had a long eight-hour wait to find a bed to get her admitted,” she said. “Because there are so many people getting sick. They said there are so many people with the flu, RSV.”

Panagiotopoulos said her daughter is on the mend after spending several days in the hospital.

“She had oxygen on, we had a heart monitor and all that,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 57,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to RSV infection each year. One to two out of every 100 children under 6 months of age may need to be hospitalized, according to the CDC.

There is no vaccine yet to prevent an RSV infection, but the CDC said scientists are working to develop one.

Early symptoms of RSV include a runny nose, a decrease in appetite and a cough.

Experts suggest washing your hands often, keeping your hands off your face, avoiding contact with sick people, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and staying home if you’re sick.

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