SULPHUR, LA (KPLC) - Three letters can send fear into any parent of a young child: RSV. It is a very contagious respiratory infection and pediatrician Lyle Stephenson at The Pediatric Center in Sulphur says it is what's going around this week.
"RSV or respiratory syncytial virus is a virus that can be picked up, especially in the cold months from person-to-person spread," said Dr. Stephenson. "Not washing your hands or wiping noses or from droplets from coughing and sneezing."
RSV spreads very easily and presents like a cold in older children with runny noses, coughing, wheezing and fever.
The virus can also cause bronchiolitis or a lung infection. Dr. Stephenson says with babies, particularly infants and those born prematurely, it can be much more serious.
"Sometimes premature infants can start off less with the fever and more with the respiratory symptoms and sometimes as bad as having trouble starting to breathe and having what we call apnea or not breathing from RSV," said Dr. Stephenson.
That is when you need to get your baby to a hospital for medical directed care and monitoring.
Unfortunately, there is no medication to treat or prevent RSV. All care is supportive.
"Making sure that their nasal passages are clear with suction and nasal saline," said Dr. Stephenson, "and then it's making sure that nothing gets worse to the point that they need aggressive medical help."
Dr. Stephenson says he sees the bulk of RSV cases between November and April. The disease typically lasts about one to two weeks.
"One or two days they're going to get really bad and then they're going to get worse or stay at that stage until about day five," he said. "Then they'll probably level off through about another week or so of that nasty hoarse cough or wheezing."
When a child is still showing symptoms, he or she should be considered contagious.