Children's Hospital of Orange County is seeing a record-setting pace of respiratory viral outbreaks in babies this year, an epidemiologist at the hospital said today.
Two years ago, CHOC treated a record number of 1,045 cases of respiratory syncypial virus -- or RSV, said Wendi Gornick, the clinical manager of infection prevention and epidemiology at CHOC. At this point in 2010, there were 199 patients with RSV, but as of today CHOC has treated 209 babies with the virus, Gornick said.
Last year was much better with only 34 cases as of this time, Gornick said. The RSV season usually runs from October through February, she said.
``It's very common this time of year,'' Gornick said.
It's a potentially deadly virus, but Gornick could not recall the last time a patient at CHOC succumbed to RSV. The virus is especially hard on babies up to a year old and can sometimes be deadly for the elderly as well.
``It's unusual to have RSV deaths, but they can occur,'' Gornick said.
Four of the babies who contracted RSV this year were admitted to CHOC's intensive care unit, she said.
Symptoms are similar to a common cold, Gornick said.
Babies often run a high fever and suffer with labored breathing, Gornick said. Other symptoms are irritability, lethargy and flagging appetite, Gornick said.
The virus is transmitted by contact and is usually picked up by older siblings at school and passed around the house, Gornick said.
Sometimes babies pick it up in public from strangers, Gornick said.
``People want to go up to babies and touch their cheeks and rub their hands,'' Gornick said, adding parents should discourage that.
``It's kind of hard sometimes to say, no, you can't touch my baby,'' Gornick said.
The best way to avoid passing on the virus is good hygienic habits, she said.
``There's no vaccine, so we want to use good infection prevention like hand washing, cleaning of the environment, placing soiled things immediately in the trash and then washing hands,'' Gornick said.
- City News Service