Health experts warn Respiratory Syncytial Virus, commonly referred to as RSV, is spreading quickly across the United States, overwhelming numerous children’s hospitals.
RSV is primarily linked to inflamed or infected airways in the lungs of children less than one-year-old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What’s a cold for us is something that could potentially be deadly for a baby,” said Allison Blocker, the North Carolina mother of a baby who contracted RSV.
Blocker’s 8-week-old, Ava, was hospitalized, intubated, and on a ventilator battling the virus for more than a week.
“That is something that no parent ever wants to see,” she said. “No parent should ever have to see.”
At first, Blocker didn’t think much when her daughter had a cough and runny nose on Oct. 12. She took her to the pediatrician.
“I never would’ve dreamed we would’ve ended up in the hospital,” Blocker said. “The nurse practitioner took one look at her and immediately called an ambulance.”
Doctors quickly diagnosed her baby with RSV. Within a couple of days of showing symptoms, she started to wheeze and struggled to breathe.
Blocker told FOX8 that doctors put her baby on a high flow of oxygen within 24 hours after being admitted to the hospital.
After a few days, her daughter was put on a ventilator on Oct. 16.
“Seeing my child on it, it just rips your heart,” she said. “It makes you feel like … that you’re losing the ability to breathe because your baby can’t breathe.”
The 8-week-old was intubated for two and a half days while her little body fought the virus.
Blocker said her baby had a “mucus plug” in her lung causing it to collapse. She was stuck with several IVs.
“You can’t help but go to that place, you can’t help but go to, ‘I’m going to lose my baby,’ I just got eight weeks with my baby, I’m going to lose my baby,” Blocker said. “It was from something that can be preventable with mask-wearing, can be preventable with not sending your child to school sick where they are going to expose another family because it spreads like wildfire.”
Blocker was right by her baby’s side while she was undergoing treatment at the Moses Cone Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
“Knowing that she couldn’t move much on her own,” she said. “I couldn’t hold her; I could barely touch her.”
Moses Cone Children’s Unit Medical Director Doctor Suresh Nagappan told Nexstar’s WGHP that there’s a backlog of patients in the children’s unit, most under 2 years old.
“We are seeing probably the worst RSV year that I’ve seen in my career,” he said.
Nagappan has seen RSV spread earlier in the year. He said his young patients have gotten sicker for longer.
“We’re really just supporting them through until the virus gets better and unfortunately there’s no magic medicine that will make them better right away,” Nagappan said.
Blocker’s daughter was one of the lucky ones, as she got better after a nine-day stay in the hospital.
“I didn’t realize how blessed we were and how lucky we were that we were able to make it home,” she said. “It was not something I ever envisioned when I had this baby that I would ever have to deal with.”
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services officials report an increased number of RSV cases, compared to the same times in previous years.
Most children experience a mild case if infected with RSV, according to the CDC. Symptoms of RSV usually develop within four to six days of exposure.
Parents should look out for these symptoms in their children:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
“If their infant or child starts to really breathe harder or breathe faster or just won’t eat or drink at all and you’re worried about getting dehydrated, that’s a time to really go to the pediatrician or the emergency room depending on the severity of things,” Nagappan said.
Health officials encourage what people have learned during the pandemic to prevent the spread of a virus, including washing hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing a mask, and socially distancing.