Infant respiratory virus at statewide epidemic levels

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CHICAGO - Health officials have a new warning for all parents of infants.

Doctors say an infant's seasonal sniffles may be more than a cold and could mean something much more serious. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very common and highly contagious seasonal virus that impacts nearly 100% of children by their second birthday.

RSV often has mild, cold-like symptoms, but in some babies, it can develop into a serious infection.   RSV causes 1 of every 13 pediatrician visits in kids under 5, and is the leading cause of infant hospitalization. While all babies can potentially develop severe RSV disease, premature infants are at an especially high risk of becoming sick from the virus because they are born with underdeveloped lungs and immature immune systems.

According to the CDC, RSV is currently at statewide epidemic levels in Illinois. This time of year, RSV spreads very easily through touching, and can live on surfaces (like countertops and doorknobs) for several hours. Unfortunately, once contracted, there is no cure for RSV, so protecting against this highly contagious virus is critical.

Anyone with questions about RSV should talk to their doctor.

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