Parents of babies and young children may want to check out a recently launched Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website that tracks the spread of respiratory syncytial virus, the most common cause of respiratory illness in infants and young kids. RSV usually causes only mild illness, but it can be life-threatening in babies born prematurely or at a low birth weight, or who have severe heart or lung disease.
Two medications—RespiGam and Synagis—can protect high-risk infants from RSV, but only if the medication is administered before infection. That's where the CDC site may come in handy: If you see that RSV cases are spiking in your state, you can seek medication and ramp up the preventive hygiene. Information for the site is provided by the data collection firm Surveillance Data Inc. from more than 600 laboratories nationwide.
Most kids have had RSV by age 2, with the more severe cases causing bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Adults and older children who get RSV usually have only cold-like symptoms. Severe RSV is responsible for up to 125,000 infant hospitalizations each year.