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Virus Runs Rampant Sending West Texas Infants to the Hospital

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

In just the past few days, a serious respiratory virus reared it's ugly head in the Permian Basin.

Young children are leaving daycare and heading for the doctor's office.

In fact, our local hospitals are full with young children who caught RSV.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infects the lungs and breathing passages and can be spread by contact or in the air.

RSV hit the Basin hard during the last ten days. Dozens of West Texas infants are in the hospital, and local doctors want to get the word out.

"We had a pretty big outbreak all of a sudden," Dr. John Bray, Midland Pediatric Allergist, said. "It seemed like it jumped up, the numbers in the hospital seemed to have jumped up pretty quickly."

Here in the Basin, RSV kicks into high gear December through March, but this year it hit harder than ever.

"My impression, at least part of the outbreak is more significant than last year," Dr. Bray said. "It hit kind of late, but it hit kind of hard when it did."

And the hospital beds are full. Odessa Regional reports seventeen cases, Medical Center is handling six cases ages 6 months to four years. And during the last week, Midland Memorial has seen six, and since Thursday, another local pediatrician has treated about 15 cases.

"It seems to depend on time of the year, and also probably temperature changes, weather changes seem to activate the virus and it varies during different times of the year," Dr. Bray said. 

For healthy kids, RSV doesn't mean anymore than a bad cold, but it's dangerous for children who already have chronic respiratory illnesses, heart disease, or who were born prematurely.

"Worst case scenario is that it can kill you," Dr. Bray said. "Luckily, that's quite rare, but there are some children each year that will probably wind up on a ventilator related to RSV Viral Pneumonia."

Doctors aren't sure exactly how the virus starts, but once it gets going, it runs rampant and there's no good vaccine.

"Most of it is spread through the daycare centers and the schools, and one kid brings it home and the other kids get it if they're still at home," Dr. Bray said

If you're a parent, here's what you need to look for: RSV starts with a runny nose, then develops into a cough. Eventually that cough will become more severe, making it difficult for young children to breathe.

"Usually by the time a kid obviously has a problem, he's already contaminated everybody else in the daycare, so it just goes rampant once it gets started," Dr. Bray said. "The most important thing I think people need to know is that it is in the community,it's out now. Try to avoid crowds, try to wash your hands extra good, try to keep from being contaminated by the kids in the neighborhood, wait till the thing dies down."

Dr. Bray tells us there's really no danger of adults getting sick with RSV.

He says during our lifetime, we build an immunity to the virus and if it's in the air it won't cause anything more than cold-like symptoms.

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