AUSTIN (KXAN) — Public health officials are warning families of a contagious virus making its way through homes and hospitals across central Texas.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a strict warning for families: Be on the look-out for respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV.
“Winter is a common time where you will see more RSV infections. Usually, it will be a cold. The ones we worry about are the RSV infections that cause bronchiolitis,” said Dr. Lisa Gaw, a pediatrician at Texas Children’s Urgent Care in Austin.
It’s a highly-contagious and easily transferred virus.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of RSV include a runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing.
“We say wheezing and people think asthma, so there’s always an element of ‘is it asthma or bronchiolitis?’ So there’s confusion with that,” Dr. Gaw said.
But parents of high-risk children can find themselves in a tougher situation.
The chief nursing staff at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas said the emergency room takes in dozens of kids every day with symptoms of RSV.
Elizabeth Fredeboelling, the chief nursing officer at Dell Children’s, said around 10 percent will need to receive critical care.
“They are breathing so fast and so hard that it’s hard for them to eat. And so they may need IV fluids and that’s something they can do at the hospital,” Dr. Gaw said.
To keep your family in the clear and out of the hospital, doctors say to practice good hygiene like washing hands often and covering your mouth. Look for signs that your child may be infected; they may begin breathing heavily and show signs of dehydration. And if you feel like they may be coming down with something, seek medical attention right away.
Is this virus specific to children?
It’s important to note, adults can get the virus, too. Call the doctor if you think you might have it. There is no known cure or anti-viral medication that treats RSV yet.
Who is the most vulnerable?
RSV is particularly concerning in babies and young children, especially preemies because they have weakened immune systems. That means there’s a greater chance of bronchial issues or inflammation of the airways to the lungs.
RSV could also turn into pneumonia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one or two out of every hundred children under six months old with an RSV infection may need to be hospitalized.