Huntsville doctors seeing rise in RSV cases in children

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala - It's that time of year again - cold and flu season. The Huntsville City Schools district is asking parents to keep their kids at home if they're sick.

"We want parents to make sure that if their child is sick, if they meet one of the criteria that are pretty common things with fever, that sort of thing, that they keep their child at home during that time," district communication director Keith Ward said.

It was a timely warning from the district.

"It is certainly busier than last year and certainly, one of the busiest years we've had," Huntsville Hospital Pediatrician Robert McClellan said.

Their hands are full, but it might not be with what you expect. Flu numbers are low right now.

"We haven't seen a lot of that in the pediatric hospital yet. We hear it's coming and it's certainly time to get the influenza vaccine if you haven't already," he said.

But they are seeing high numbers of RVS. "We certainly have a lot of RSV which is respiratory syncytial virus," he said.

"This year it seems to be either an early season or we're having a much larger season with patients staying in the hospital with quite a longer than we're used to seeing," said Dr. McClellan.

RSV is a virus much like a cold. It is extremely contagious and tends to affect children two and under.

"It is one of the many viral causes of bronchiolitis and bronchiolitis in a lower respiratory tract infection," he said.

That infection can lead to hospitalization. "Children that have smaller airways that can be plugged easier with mucus. It can be a worse illness that ends up putting them in the hospital."

RSV doesn't have a vaccine. Dr. McCellan says the best way to prevent it is by washing your hands. Since RSV doesn't have a vaccine to prevent it, confirmed cases are not reported to the health department. Because of that, it's difficult to know how many cases have been treated so far this season.

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