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Cases of respiratory virus RSV in children rising in 33 states

A family vacation turned into a trip to the emergency room for April Joines and her 6-year-old daughter, Lillian, who suffers from asthma and was hospitalized with a lung infection called respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV. 

“She was more lethargic,” Joines said. “Her breathing was labored.” 

When they got to the ER, they were met with an hours-long wait to be admitted to the intensive care unit. 

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said that’s because it’s seeing two to three times the volume of pediatric patients as RSV cases have skyrocketed in Georgia and at least 32 other states. 

Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, runny nose and decreased appetite. It’s transmitted through direct contact. 

Nearly 60,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to the virus each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are no approved vaccines for it. 

“One of the great things is, parents know their children the best,” said Dr. Andi Shane, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “If a child is having difficulty breathing that may be an indication for the child to see emergency department or urgent care.” 

Joines is cautious as flu season approaches. Even though her daughter is better, she has three other children, including a son who had RSV as an infant. 

“It’s hard to talk about because it’s really emotional,” she said when asked if she was concerned that one of her children could get RSV again. 

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