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RSV infections on the rise in children across Baton Rouge area

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BATON ROUGE - Doctors say it's unusual to have a wave of respiratory syncytial virus cases in the summer. But since COVID restrictions were lifted, doctors say there's been a spike in cases, particularly in children.

It's been a tough week for Amanda Bethel and her 1-year-old daughter Cora.

"We're not quite out of the woods yet, but she is improving every day," Amanda said.

Just last Wednesday, she noticed baby Cora was struggling to breathe.

"Thursday she got way worse. Her fever was really high. She was breathing really fast, and her heart rate was really fast," she said.

Cora's illness eventually led her to Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital, where she was found positive for RSV and was admitted to the ICU.

"She couldn't keep up with breathing that fast and working that hard to breathe for that long. So they put her on something called Vapotherm, which is an assisted high flow oxygen to help get her breathing," Amanda said.

The virus is common, but rarely seen outside of fall or winter. Doctors say the summer surge is unheard of.

Doctor Mindy Calandro is a pediatrician with Baton Rouge Clinic. She says she's seeing up to 10 cases of the respiratory illness in children each day.

"I think some of that is probably because everyone's just getting back out and about, and sharing germs again. Kids are doing more play dates, and adults are not masking as much anymore," Calandro said.

As many people took off masks and started to venture out, doctors say cases of RSV started to spike. The case count got so high across parts of the southern United States the CDC issued an alert.

The virus often causes the usual cold symptoms, but for some children it could be worse.

"Certain RSV can cause kids to be hospitalized as well as in intensive care units. Unfortunately, RSV does kill children every year."

After three nights of oxygen and fluids, Cora returned home and is now recovering. For other parents, Amanda warns them to be aware.

"Stay home, wash your hands and do all of the infection control strategies that you can," Amanda said.

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