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Respiratory virus hitting Oregon families is especially dangerous for young kids

Sarah and Brian, Sawyer Cole
KPTV
Sarah and Brian Cole with their hospitalized 3-month-old, Sawyer

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) -- If you have a young child, you may have heard about RSV. It’s a respiratory illness that is hitting a lot of families hard right now, and it is especially dangerous for young kids.

It stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and numbers from the Oregon Health Authority show that in the last week of December, 322 people across the state tested positive for it.

“We’re seeing quite a bit of RSV here in the hospital,” Patrick Lew, a pediatrician at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, said. “…I actually brought my kid to see his own pediatrician today and she was saying she’s seeing a lot of RSV, and we both agree it seems to be a little bit more severe this year than in past years.”

One of the patients fighting it right now is 3-month-old Sawyer Cole.

His parents, Sarah and Brian, say he started getting a little cough on Thursday, and at first, they thought it was a cold. But then, the symptoms got worse.

“It was Monday morning, I think, is when we woke up and he was just coughing crud up and kept having a hard time breathing, so we took him to the doctor,” Sarah said.

He was ultimately admitted to Providence St. Vincent for treatment.

Lew says in the last week, somewhere between a third and half of all pediatric patients at that hospital have had RSV.

Early symptoms are very similar to a cold, like runny nose, congestion, and maybe a fever. But in some cases, that congestion becomes severe.

“It’s most severe in the really young kids, so the younger you are the harder it’s going to hit you, so those are the kids we worry most about,” Dr. Lew added.

Signs of respiratory distress include nostrils flaring out when your child breathes, fast breathing, belly breathing or the skin around their neck or ribs sucking in when they inhale.

Those are all signs your child should see a doctor.

You can get a test for RSV through a nasal swab at your pediatrician’s office, urgent care or emergency department.

“Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for RSV, so the best way to prevent it is the same things you would do for any other cold,” Lew said. “So, that’s really good hand-washing, covering your cough or sneeze, and trying to stay away from people who are sick.”

“I worked in day care for a while, so I was pretty familiar with [RSV],” Sarah Cole said. “But we just hoped he wasn’t going to get it.”

Their baby is doing a little better now, but she says he still has a low-grade fever and doesn’t want to eat, so they may have to stay in the hospital a while longer.

Their message for other parents is this: if your child is sick, don’t wait to bring them in for treatment.

“We were kind of apprehensive, like, ‘oh do we need to take him in, or do we not,’ and I probably would have… brought him in sooner,” Sarah said.

If you have questions about your own child’s health, contact your doctor.

National & World / Oregon-Northwest / Top Stories

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