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Respiratory Syncytial Virus

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Buffalo: Respiratory Syncytial Virus
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RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a respiratory illness that can be deadly. Marcie Fraser reports.

"Kenny was six months old and he started to develop a fever and a stuffy nose. By ten o'clock that evening he was intubated, and being rushed to Albany Med. You know you don't think it six months down the road about RSV that could potentially kill your child," said Angel Tucker.

“RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus. This virus attaches itself to lung tissue that burrows in and hangs on and then spread itself over the cells. The cells ultimately and cause inflammation and cell destruction, it's a nasty virus," said Dr. Florence Nolan, pediatric cardiologist.

RSV in older kids or adults is much like the common cold, but spells trouble for premature babies.

"As a child if you have underlying lung disease, lung disease like prematurity, you are going to be very sick and potentially die with RSV," said Dr. Nolan.

Angela Tucker’s son, Kenneth, was able to recover from RSV but because he was born with Down Syndrome, he has a harder time when he gets sick. It's transmitted just like a cold.

"Sometimes the presenting symptom in a baby is stopping breathing. They will have retraction, it's when the skin on the ribs gets sucked in when they breathe. They have a very commanding cough and working very hard to breathe," said Dr. Nolan.


Most babies recover within 12 weeks and most are treated in the hospital. Once a child has RSV, the negative impact on the respiratory system is permanent.

"The damage that's been done to your lungs by the initial severe infection is going to make you sicker with any infection, not just another RSV bout but the rhino virus, which is the common name for the cold virus," said Dr. Nolan.

She’s a bit more relaxed but always concerned about her son's health.

"He's bigger and stronger and he can fight it, I don't worry as much," said Angel Tucker.

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