Friday, March 16, 2012

Common Virus Can Lead to Life-Threatening Conditions in Children

Loyola University Health System Pediatric Intensivist Sheds Light on RSV

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that infects the lungs and breathing passage ways. Though it may only produce minor cold symptoms in adults, it can lead to serious illness in young children and those with compromised immune systems.

“This is an extremely contagious virus, so it can easily be spread from one child to another in a school or home setting. We continue to see a large number of kids being admitted to the hospital this year due to RSV. Though it often peaks in winter, the virus may continue to affect communities through early spring,” said Rahul Bhatia, MD, pediatric intensive care unit physician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV is the leading cause of bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lung, in infants under the age of 1. Most children will have been exposed to RSV by their second birthday.

"Although younger children have a greater chance of being hospitalized due to the virus, any age group can be affected,” Bhatia said.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to protect children against this virus. In fact, the best way to prevent the spread is good, old-fashioned hand washing.

“RSV is easily spread by touching infected people and surfaces, so washing your child’s and your own hands often is the best way to prevent it from being spread,” Bhatia said.

According to Bhatia, symptoms typically peak around 5-7 days into the illness and can continue to provide problems for 10-15 days. People with RSV are usually contagious for 3-8 days, but those with a weakened immune system can be contagious for up to 4 weeks.

“If your school-age child has cold symptoms, it may be best to try to keep them away from younger brothers or sisters to avoid transmission,” Bhatia said.

RSV symptoms vary with age and can be similar to that of a cold. Bhatia suggests calling your doctor if your child has the following symptoms:

  • It has become increasingly more difficult for your child to breathe
  • Your child has nasal flaring
  • A decreased appetite
  • Your child has decreased urine output


Bhatia suggests going to the emergency room if your child:

  • Quits breathing
  • Is a dusky color
  • Is having problems breathing

“There are numerous viruses that can cause respiratory infections. The only way to know if it is RSV is to have testing done,” Bhatia said. “RSV has been around for a while. It’s nothing new, just every once in a while we see a spike in cases and this happens to be one of those years."

For media inquiries, please contact Evie Polsley at epolsley@lumc.edu or call (708) 216-5313 or (708) 417-5100.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.