RSV season means crowded hospitals

December 23, 2008 3:52:23 PM PST
You've heard of flu season, but what about RSV season? It's upon us now and respiratory viruses are rampant this time of year especially among children two years and younger. That's leading to backups in pediatric emergency rooms everywhere.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

4-month-old Musa Wasay Malik works hard to breathe, wheezing with each breath.

"It's too dangerous. He's just four months old. We prefer to just take him to the emergency room," said Musa's father, Mughees Malik.

His father says Musa's condition worsened in the last week despite visits to the doctor. So his parents brought him to an emergency room in Sugar Land. He was then transferred to Children's Memorial Hermann.

"It's pretty hard as a parent. He's four months. He can't do anything. He can't say what his needs are. He's just crying," said Mughees Malik.

Children like Musa are one in five pediatric patients right now in the hospital here, diagnosed with viral bronchiolitis. Parents are showing up with their kids en masse at the ER.

Viral bronchiolitis is an inflammation and infection of the airways which leaves the child struggling to breathe.

"An asthma equivalent. Wheezing, cough, congestion and the like. This is the time of year for it. This is bread and butter as far as pediatrics are concerned," said Dr. Jason Sanders of the UT Medical School at Houston.

Dr. Sanders says patients usually have one of several risk factors, including: prematurity, immunodeficiency, exposure to tobacco smoke, not being breast fed, or day care attendance.

The condition is exacerbated by the change to winter weather. The virus must run its course and usually takes 10-14 days to do so, though doctors can give patients medications to help them breathe easier.

Little Musa's family is thankful for that, but will be most thankful to have their little one home sometime soon.

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