Disclaimer: This post is a compensated post in collaboration with MedImmune and Latina Bloggers Connect. However, opinions expressed in this post are my own and have not been modified by the sponsors or any other third parties.
As promised, today I am writing about a very important public health issue: Respiratory Syncytial Virus, better known or more commonly known as RSV. As a mother of a soon-to-be 9-month old, I take every opportunity to learn about things that might affect my little one; RSV is no exception!
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common, seasonal virus contracted by nearly 100% of babies by their 2nd birthday. Although RSV is extremely common, many parents are unaware of the dangers that RSV presents to their children.
As a health disparities researcher, I am very interested in disparities across different racial ethnic groups. The data indicate that although infants of all races/ethnicities are at risk for RSV, African-American and Latino babies are at increased risk of developing severe RSV disease.
Why? Well, among Latinos in the US specifically, half a million babies are born premature each year, with the preterm birth rate increasing 6% over the last decade. Currently 1 in 8 Latino babies is born premature, and it is possible that high prematurity rates are a reason for increased risk of RSV within Latino communities. In addition, 1 in 3 Latina mothers avoids or postpones proper treatment for their child because of healthcare costs, lack of access to care, or lack of time off from work. Similar factors hold true in African American communities.
All parents—especially those with babies at increased risk for contracting RSV (e.g. preemie babies) —must understand key facts about RSV to protect their children. Learning the ABCs of RSV is a simple way to keep your family healthy during RSV season.
A is for Awareness:
RSV is a common seasonal virus, contracted by nearly all children by the age of 2, and typically causes mild to moderate cold-like symptoms in healthy, full-term babies. Preterm infants, however, are born with under-developed lungs and immature immune systems that put them at heightened risk for developing severe RSV disease, often requiring hospitalization.
- RSV occurs in epidemics each year, typically from November through March, though it can vary by geography and year-to-year.
- RSV disease is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies during their first year of life in the United States, with approximately 125,000 hospitalizations and up to 400 infant deaths each year.
- RSV disease is responsible for 1 of every 13 pediatrician visits and 1 of every 38 trips to the ER, in children under the age of 5.
- Despite being so common, many parents aren’t aware of RSV; in fact, one-third of mothers (and two-thirds of Latino mothers) have never heard of the virus.
B is for Babies:
- Premature babies—defined as those born before 37 weeks gestation—are most at risk for developing severe RSV disease because they have under-developed lungs and fewer antibodies to fight the virus than babies born full term.
- The virus often leads to a mild respiratory infection, but in some babies, such as preemies, it can develop into something much more serious due to their underdeveloped lungs and immature immune systems. Poor little defenseless little ones!! 😦
C is for Contagious:
RSV is very contagious and can be spread easily through touching, sneezing and coughing. Additionally, the virus can live on the skin and surfaces for hours. Learn the symptoms of severe RSV disease and contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Bluish color around the mouth or fingernails
- Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
- Fever [especially if it is over 100.4°F (rectal) in infants under 3 months of age]
There is no treatment for RSV disease once it’s contracted, so prevention is critical. A pediatrician is the best way for mothers to get answers to their child’s health issues. In addition to talking to their children’s doctor, parents can help protect their children from contracting RSV by:
- Washing their hands and ask others to do the same
- Keeping toys, clothes, blanket and sheets clean
- Avoiding crowds and other young children during RSV season
- Never letting anyone smoke around your baby (that includes you! Don’t smoke around your baby, whether that be your human or fur-baby!! I digress, but you get what I’m trying to say. J)
- Steering clear of people who are sick or who have recently been sick
Speak to your child’s pediatrician to determine if your baby is at high risk for RSV disease, and if so, what additional steps may be recommended. For more information about RSV and prevention, visit www.RSVprotection.com.
Thanks for reading, becoming informed, and for helping to prevent RSV in our precious baby population! Here is a printable info sheet to place on your fridge, in your baby book, or to simply have on hand should you ever have questions about RSV.
Stay chic and informed, fab friends!! 💋