RSV sends 25 to Mobridge Hospital

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A virus that poses danger to babies and those with health conditions has been present in South Dakota and in the Mobridge area this winter.

Area healthcare professionals are treating children with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV is a common virus that leads to cold-like symptoms in most adults and older healthy children. But it can be more serious in babies and older children who have other health conditions such as diseases that affect the lungs, heart or immune system.

June Volk, the infectious disease specialist at Mobridge Regional Hospital, said there have been 25 cases of RSV treated at MRH in January and February.

“We have seen plenty of it,” she said. “These children are sick enough to be hospitalized.”

Anyone can get RSV, but it affects babies the hardest because of their respiratory systems.

“Adults get it but we might think it is a cold or the flu,” said Volk. “Our respiratory tracts handle it better. The respiratory systems in babies don’t handle it as well.”

With babies, it is harder to tell whether it is a cold or RSV. Volk said coughing, heavy mucus flow from the nose and throat and fever are signs of the virus. Children might also become lethargic and quit eating.

She said adults are able to clear the mucus from their noses and throats,but babies are not able to do that. That may be one of the reasons they quit eating. Children are at greater risk of dehydration if they do not eat and drink. Children may also develop bronchiectasis and pneumonia if not treated for the RSV.

Since it is a virus, not a bacterium, RSV does not respond to antibiotics. Treatment includes neubulizing to open their airways, oxygen if necessary and if the child will not eat, intravenous nutrition may be part of the treatment.

The disease is extremely contagious and can spread through the air. It also can live on surfaces such as doorknobs and tables for a couple of hours, said Volk, as well as a person’s hands and clothing.

She said washing hands, cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and keeping children from being exposed to others would help to stop the spread of the virus. It can take two to eight days for a person to develop the disease after they have been exposed.

“It spreads pretty easily,” she said. “This may not be a good time to take a baby to basketball game. Just don’t take them out where they can be exposed.”

Premature babies are more susceptible to contracting the virus, as are children with compromised immune systems.

“They need to be carefully monitored,” said Volk. “Also parents might talk to their doctors for suggestions on how to keep their children safe.”

RSV infections often occur in epidemics that usually happen from late fall through early spring.

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