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Northeast Ohio hospitals see increase in respiratory virus common in young children

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Posted at 9:35 PM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 23:18:18-05

CLEVELAND — Hospitals in Northeast Ohio say they’re seeing an increase in a respiratory virus common in young children.

Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and Cleveland Clinic Children’s both said there has been an uptick in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, in children.

Dr. Lolita McDavid, medical director, child advocacy and protection at Rainbow, said RSV is one of more than 300 viruses that can cause the common cold.

“It’s very common,” McDavid said. “By the time most kids are two years old, they will have had RSV.”

While the virus is common and not a big deal for most people, it can create issues for susceptible babies and kids, “the ones who either were born premature, who may have lung problems or children that are a little older who also may have lung problems,” McDavid said.

It can also affect older adults or those with underlying respiratory problems.

McDavid said babies can get what’s called bronchiolitis, “in the small airways of babies, and so they get a wheezing.” That’s different from bronchitis.

A spokesperson for Cleveland Clinic said, "In addition to an increase in flu cases, we here at Cleveland Clinic Children’s are also seeing a significant rise in RSV cases, particularly RSV bronchiolitis cases."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 57,000 children under five years old are hospitalized due to RSV each year, and so are approximately 177,000 adults.

The virus is most common this time of year, during cold and flu season, McDavid said.

“I think that everybody would say that we’re a lot busier right now,” she said.

McDavid said there is a vaccine for RSV, but it’s rarely given. Instead, doctors focus on treating symptoms, which are similar to those of the common cold.

“Runny nose, cough, sneeze, you may hear a wheeze,” McDavid said. “Sometimes they’ll have fever, but not often.”

McDavid said it’s important to make sure a child stays hydrated with something like Pedialyte, rather than just water, which can create problems if too much is given to children.

To keep RSV at bay, she recommended washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, something people can remember by singing a song that’s the same length.

“We teach children, it can be anything from happy birthday to the alphabet song,” McDavid said, adding that she chooses to sing a portion of the song “Uptown Funk.”

McDavid also recommended that most people avoid shaking hands in the wintertime, if possible, which can help prevent the spread of germs.

For most people, RSV will resolve on its own in a week or two, and in the meantime, medications like Tylenol or Motrin can help with fever and pain.

“Lots of liquids, rest and most people will get over it,” McDavid said.