RSV cases keeping Oklahoma doctors busy in flu season
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 8:17 AM
The number of children experiencing symptoms of Respiratory Syncytial Virus has been relatively typical this flu season, one doctor said.
Seventeen people in Oklahoma - including four in Tulsa County - have died from the flu this season, and RSV circulates during the flu season. RSV can be dangerous to young children, and cases started showing up in mid-December.
More than 95 percent of people have RSV by the time they are 2, and many get it repeatedly throughout their lifetime, said Dr. Joseph Walter, pediatric pulmonologist at the Warren Clinic and Children's Hospital at Saint Francis. Adults and older children experience it as a bad cold.
"It's seen everywhere throughout the winter season," he said. "Pediatricians are very busy with it."
Children younger than 1 in particular can develop bronchiolitis, an infection affecting the air passages in the lungs.
RSV is a common cause of hospitalization for those in that age range, Tulsa pediatrician Dr. Pat Daley said. RSV is usually seen between November and March and is sometimes mistaken for flu, doctors said.
Those with RSV have more respiratory symptoms than those with the flu, and rapid testing can usually be done to tell what a person has, Walter said.
Prematurely born babies are more prone to significant problems with RSV, he said.
No highly effective treatment exists for the virus. Doctors mostly try to manage the symptoms and ensure the child stays hydrated, he said.
Daley said sometimes children are given breathing treatments in a doctor's office.
Children with RSV often don't get better for several days, and the average hospital stay is four to five days, he said.
RSV can cause death, particularly in those with underlying chronic health conditions, he said.
Walter said that outcome is rare in relation to the number of children who get the virus.
Young children should be taken to a doctor when they have difficulty breathing or have audible wheezing, he said.
Daley said the illness is usually taken care of in a primary care physician's office but can necessitate a trip to the urgent care clinic or emergency room.
"They can get sick quickly with it, and you kind of don't mess around with it," he said.
RSV is spread primarily by coughing and hand contact, but it can be hard to avoid, he said.
"It's out there, and you're probably going to get it," he said.
Original Print Headline: RSV cases keep doctors busy in flu season
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378