Docs, families fight virus

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Pediatricians say they’ve seen a bump in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections in recent weeks.

“This is the typical time we see RSV hitting hard,” said Dr. Samir Patel, a pediatrician at St. Mary’s HSHS hospital in Decatur. “When the winters are colder than usual, we see more people staying indoors, hence it’s easier to spread when you’re sick.”

To prevent the spread of the virus, doctors recommend covering coughs and helping children to wash their hands properly when needed.

“In most kids, it causes what we call an upper-respiratory infection, which is colds,” Patel said. “In the small kids less than a year of age, it can also cause what we call bronchiolitis, which is an inflammation of the small airways, as well as viral pneumonia.”

Among children with other health problems, however, the virus can have more serious results. Cristy Proctor said her young daughter Izzy was hospitalized for more than a week after she developed an RSV infection.

“She’s had chronic lung disease since she was two months old … she’s been in-and-out of the hospital now 13 times,” Proctor said. “She could take breaths in, but she couldn’t push air back out, so she was needing this extra equipment to help her breathe like a normal person.”

Proctor said the time in the hospital was trying for both Izzy and her family.

“She’s rolling around, getting tangled up,” Proctor remembered. “It just takes a toll on the family.”

While researchers have developed a treatment that can prevent RSV infections, that treatment is only given to some children. Proctor said, while Izzy qualified for the treatment last cold season, she did not this time.

“We were told she didn’t qualify, that only preemies that were born 29 weeks or earlier would qualify, even though she has such a complex case,” Proctor said. “We need to put the decisions back into our doctors’ hands. They’re the ones who know our children, who see our children every day. They should be able to do this on a case-by-case basis.”

Izzy is now at home doing better.

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