Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
We have all seen the commercials with the infants that are coughing hysterically due to RSV. But, do we actually even know what RSV is. Newborn babies have immature immune systems which can cause infections of the lungs and breathing passages. RSV is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. RSV is highly contagious and usually spread through coughing and sneezing. RSV if severe, can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia. RSV has estimated to cause over 100,000 deaths yearly worldwide.
Barney Graham and his colleagues at US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are researching the early immune system in order to develop effective vaccines for newborns to infants. Graham and colleagues studied the behavior of these lung dendritic cells in newborn mice and compared it with that in older animals. They learned that the younger the child is the more likely RSV is going to take up, digest, and present parts of an intruding virus to other immune cells, which is different than it is among adults. This is why adults do not usually get RSV.
Preventing and treating RSV, can be fairly easy. Using hand sanitizer before handling a small child can reduce the chance of the child contracting RSV. Parents should allow time for recovery if the child has contacted RSV. Also, give the child plenty of fluids. If the infant is at risk for RSV, they can be given a monthly injection of medication consisting of RSV antibodies during peak RSV season, which is November through April. You should call the doctor if your child has had thick nasal discharge, high fever, worsening cough, signs of dehydration, or trouble breathing.