EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – El Paso Children’s Hospital is filling up with young children and infants who are suffering from a respiratory virus called RSV.

Dr. Jeffrey D. Schuster, chief medical officer and pediatric cardiologist at EPCH, explains that RSV is a common virus across the world and usually shows up during the fall and winter. However, this year it came sooner than expected. RSV is commonly known to cause severe breathing issues in young children.

According to Dr. Schuster, EPCH has seen a 300% increase of cases regarding RSV involving children since August of this year.

The virus usually causes respiratory issues, but premature and immunocompromised babies can experience bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the airways within the lungs that requires hospitalization. For severe cases of RSV, some children have to be put on respirators, Schuster says.

According to Dr. Schuster, there is currently no vaccine or treatment for RSV, but premature and immunocompromised infants can receive monthly shots of Synagis – a medicine injected only during RSV season that can prevent infants from contracting the virus or making it a milder case.

Dr. Schuster also explains that they are not seeing as many cases of COVID-19 or flu at the moment, and are more concerned about RSV, considering there are treatments and vaccines for both COVID and influenza.

He explains how older children and adults can contract RSV but will manifest as a milder cold. However, it is much more dangerous for children under the age of six and infants to contract the virus.

“It can start with irritability, it can start with poor feeding in infants, then you start to notice they are having trouble breathing. If they are sucking in (on their neck) or under their ribs and if their belly is moving too much just to breathe those are signs parents can recognize there is something wrong with breathing with this baby.”

Dr. Schuster suggests visiting a physician if you see any of these symptoms and explains how EPCH will test for COVID, flu and RSV.

The best way to protect your child from contracting RSV is practicing efficient hand washing, due to the virus spreading in a similar way as COVID. Dr. Schuster also recommends keeping your child home if they are feeling sick.

He also suggests getting the flu shot, especially for immunocompromised children, as they are expecting a much harsher flu season this year.

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