October marks the beginning of the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, season. The disease can be extremely serious and even deadly for babies.
Last year, OU Children's Hospital saw hundreds of cases.
Elvy Dollens, daughter of state Representative Mickey Dollens (D-93), battled the respiratory virus last year at just a week old.
The Dollens family is sharing their story to raise awareness and potentially save lives.
“We had never heard of RSV either before our daughter contracted it,” state Rep. Mickey Dollens said. “It was to the point that her breathing was so labored that she needed help. We ended up in the emergency room. We were told it would be an eight-hour wait.”
Elvy had difficulty breathing, so her parents decided to take her to another nearby hospital.
“We found ourselves in the hospital, getting treatment for seven days. We looked into it and what could have prevented this,” Dollens said.
Oklahoma does not currently track RSV numbers like COVID-19 or influenza.
“For Oklahoma, there is not direct reporting for RSV, like there is Texas. I think tracking it will allow us to have more knowledge in the future of how seasons are going,” SSM Health St. Anthony pediatrician Dr. Kyle Woodson said.
The most serious cases of RSV occur in newborns, babies who are born prematurely or have weak immune systems.
OU Children's Hospital takes on the most severe cases. The hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit was full around Christmastime 2019.
Doctors said there is no way to predict what's to come but said that COVID-19 could have a positive impact on the amount of cases they might see in 2020.
The CDC’s recommendation for people to wear masks, wash their hands and socially distance could also prevent a spike in RSV cases.
Here’s what OU saw in the pediatric ICU in 2019.
“Typical, for us, would be around 400 cases in a winter season,” OU Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Stephanie DeLeon said.
The good news: Most babies are not admitted to the hospital due to recoveries.
Doctors also said that could also mean the total of cases in Oklahoma is likely in the thousands.
Many children simple are not sick enough to need life-saving treatment, but they can still spread it to smaller children.
“Our message going forward: practice social distancing, hand washing, wear you masks,” Dollens said.
Elvy is now 11 months old and thriving.
RSV will look much different than COVID-19. Severe symptoms of the virus include fever, severe cough, wheezing, rapid or difficulty breathing, or a bluish color of the skin due to a lack of oxygen.