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Medical officials taking steps to lower RSV rates in children

Posted at 11:44 PM, Dec 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-05 23:45:10-05

We’ve all heard of the flu, but there’s another virus out there that can be just as dangerous, especially with infants. Currently, there are no vaccines for RSV, but over the next decade, that could change.

The respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus circulates every winter in our area, typically from November until the end of March.

Dr. Ruth A. Karron, MD is a Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Director of the Center for Immunization, and a Pediatrician.

Dr. Karron says, “RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization in the U.S. in children under a year of age. “

Dr. Karron says because adults and older children are partially immune to RSV, it usually ends up as just a cold for them, but that’s not the case for infants.

She says, “In young children, the virus can spread to the lungs and cause pneumonia or wheezing, dangerous wheezing illness. That’s what makes them so sick. And in very young children RSV can actually cause infants to stop breathing.”

Dr. Karron tells WMAR-2 News, RSV is a global problem and that there is only an antibody available for premature babies.

“It’s called Palivizumab. It’s given to very premature infants in their first year of life, but it’s very expensive and it’s a monthly shot. It’s not a vaccine, it’s an antibody, and so we really restrict its use to the very youngest and sickest babies,” says Dr. Karron.

There are currently researchers and groups around the world studying different vaccines, including here in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins.

But these studies take years.

Dr. Karron explained, “These are studies that are sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and they’re studies of vaccines, they’re weakened viruses, weakened RSV’s.”

Finding families to participate in these studies can often be challenging.

For Kelley Woehl, who found out about this current study through “Fit4Mom”, a mommy workout group, it was all about doing her research.

She says, “My father is in the medical field, so we talked about it quite extensively and we looked over it, and it eased my mind to see that it had already been studied for quite some time, just kind of moving down in age and younger babies.”

Kelley’s 8-month-old son, Silas, is currently enrolled in the study. Kelley says so far, it’s been easy.

“It was really convenient because aside from when we had to go and get either the vaccine or placebo, everything else has been at our house and each visit only takes about fifteen minutes,” Kelley says.

And the best part, Kelley knows Silas is helping children in the future.

She says, “If this can go on to also help protect children and young babies in the future, and become a regular vaccine for them, that would be amazing.”

Dr. Karron agrees, “All of the vaccines that we have for children today wouldn’t exist if families didn’t have their children participate in research to develop those vaccines.”

She continues, “Our hope is that within in the next decade, we will see RSV vaccines, maybe more than one RSV vaccine, to protect infants and children.”

FROM CDC: Symptoms of RSV infection usually include

* Runny nose

* Decrease in appetite

* Coughing

* Sneezing

* Fever

* Wheezing