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Common Virus Can Be Deadly For Some Infants

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A common virus that usually starts in late fall is peaking now and will last through spring.

It's called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, it can look like a common cold but can actually be deadly, especially in infants.

Clinging tightly to his mother and his favorite stuffed animal, Adam is a typical 10-month-old. But he had a rough start in life. At just six weeks old, his mom, Shanisty, recorded a video because it looked like he was having trouble breathing.

"You could see his rib cage, he had a little bit of a V right here, he was really labored in his breathing, and he was vomiting after every feeding," Shanisty Ireland said.

Adam was diagnosed with RSV, a respiratory virus that can make it difficult for young babies to breathe.

"RSV alone is the single most common cause of hospitalization among children less than one year of age in the U.S.," said Dr. Octavio Ramilo, of Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Last year, we had 600 babies being hospitalized at Nationwide Children's alone with RSV and probably more than 1,000 came to the emergency room."

Dr. Ramilo said most babies with RSV recover without the need for hospitalization, but some develop severe symptoms that can become life-threatening.

"The first subtle thing is they cannot take the bottle very well. The second is their breathing is not very balanced," he said.

Parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of RSV by washing their hands, disinfecting hard surfaces and avoiding sharing dishes and utensils.

"Very young babies should not be exposed to a lot of people. Their immune system – the white cells that protect us against the infections – they're not ready yet," said Dr. Ramilo.

"Lots of babies don't survive. We were one of the lucky ones," Ireland said.

Currently, many high-risk babies are given in injection of synthetic antibodies to help reduce the effects of RSV. But research is ongoing to develop a vaccine to prevent RSV on a global scale.

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