Virus causes bronchial problems |

Virus causes bronchial problems

SUMMIT COUNTY – A local doctor is recommending that parents take precautions to protect their children from a bronchial virus, which should peak shortly in Summit County.

Though respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes cold symptoms for most, it can often be more severe for young children and the elderly, who may suffer an asthma-like condition called bronchiolitis, said Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos, pediatrician at Ebert Children’s Clinics in Frisco and Vail.

With bronchiolitis, mucous clogs the respiratory system – interfering with breathing and lowering the oxygen level. This condition can be exacerbated at high elevations, where oxygen levels already are low, putting children in further jeopardy, Ebert-Santos said.

More than 100,000 children end up in the hospital each year because of RSV infections, she said. Children born prematurely or with lung or heart problems are especially at risk. About 69 percent of children are infected with the virus within their first year and 95 percent by their second, Ebert-Santos said.

“Virtually all kids have had it at one time in their life,” said Michelle Wilson Ball, a registered nurse with Summit County Public Health and Nursing.

The infection is spread by direct contact with droplets, Ebert-Santos said. One can minimize the chance of exposure by washing hands and keeping a distance of at least six feet from those who have the virus.

“It’s the basic kind of (precautions) for all diseases,” Wilson Ball said, adding that smoking around babies and bringing them to crowded places, like daycare, can increase children’s risk of infection.

Symptoms begin about four to six days after exposure and include a runny nose followed by a worsening cough, mild fever, irritability, decreased appetite and lethargy, Ebert-Santos said.

Chest -rays are often abnormal and can be confused with pneumonia, she said. Doctors can confirm an RSV diagnosis, however, using an RSV antigen test on a child’s secretions. That test is 90 percent accurate.

If a parent notices their child’s symptoms worsening – if the child is breathing more rapidly or seems to have difficulty breathing or is wheezing – he or she should take the child to their doctor for an examination, Wilson Ball said.

In severe cases, doctors put children on oxygen or admit them to the intensive care unit, Ebert-Santos said.

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Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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