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RSV: A Chronic Infant Virus

Most parents have never heard of RSV, a common respiratory virus that affects thousands of children each year. WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes is hoping to bring awareness to this virus through her campaign, "Take A Shot Against RSV." Swoopes recently spoke with CBS News Anchor Bryant Gumbel about RSV on the Early Show.

Half of all children develop Respiratory Syncytial Virus by age one. By age two, virtually all children have had some form of RSV. Premature infants are most adversely affected. In some cases, it can lead to chronic bronchitis and asthma as an adult. Each year over 126,000 children are hospitalized and up to 2,500 of those children die from the virus.

Babies born prematurely aren't fully developed so it's harder for them to fight off colds. They may develop any number of chronic lung diseases which increases risk for RSV.

Parents often think their child has a cold because they don't show signs of respiratory problems. However, RSV spreads quickly and symptoms should be carefully monitored. If parents think their child is at risk they should follow a few simple steps:

  • Caregivers or family members should wash their hands with warm water and soap before touching the baby
  • Avoid being around your baby if you have a cold or fever
  • Avoid exposing your baby to other children with cold symptoms
  • Keep your baby away from crowded places
  • Don't smoke around your baby
  • Talk to your child's pediatrician about other precautions
As part of her "Take A Shot Against RSV" campaign on a five-city tour, Swoopes is giving selected high school students the opportunity to raise money by scoring foul shots. For each successful shot made, $500 will be donated to a local hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

Swoopes, the mother of a two-year old son, says although RSV has not personally affected her she is still honored to raise awareness about the little known disease.

"Fortunately my son was not born prematurely and wasn't born with RSV. When I was approached for being the national spokesperson I was excited," she said. "Being a mom myself, I know how important it is to take good care of your child and take good care of yourself."