RSV cases on the rise; Lake Area doctor explains what parents need to know

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 9:29 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - It’s that time of year when viruses and other common illnesses run rampant through homes, workplaces and classrooms.

“Definitely in the last couple of months we have seen a spike in the incidence of RSV,” Dr. Jamal Saqer said.

While most diagnosed with RSV will only experience cold-like symptoms, this can be a scary time for new or expecting parents.

“High-risk babies like neonates, premature babies and babies with chronic heart disease and congenital heart disease, however, they tend to have severe symptoms,” Saqer said. “Their symptoms may last up to four to six weeks sometimes, and most of the time they need to be admitted to the hospital.”

Dr. Saqer, the medical director at Lake Charles Memorial Health System’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, said there is not a specific treatment for the virus. Prevention is the best method.

“Through hand washing,” Saqer said. “Isolate older children who may have respiratory symptoms from neonates and kids at risk. Also, you can talk to your child’s pediatrician about using certain immunizations.”

Saqer said for babies, especially those considered high-risk or under three months old, parents should look for increased or labored breathing or wheezing. The first sign of a problem parents might notice is that their baby isn’t eating.

“A baby normally breathing 50 to 60 times per minute, that’s a normal rate, becomes sick, they are definitely breathing more than that,” Saqer said. “They don’t have time to eat.”

He said they even use that method as an indication the baby is ready to be released once they start eating.

Saqer said parents shouldn’t wait until their child is turning blue or for them to have a fever before seeking help. Fever is not an important symptom but could mean a secondary infection on top of the virus.

Dr. Saqer encourages people with babies and adults 60 years or older to speak to a doctor about the RSV vaccine. To help counter the increase in cases, federal officials announced they were releasing more doses of the new RSV shot for newborns that have been in short supply.