Health officials, the media, even the president, continue to urge Americans to protect themselves by getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. I hope they will take the same dedicated approach if protection from RSV is one day a reality for all babies and young children.
Respiratory syncytial virus remains the leading cause of hospitalization in children younger than age one. Unfortunately, my daughter is part of this scary statistic. When she was just 12 weeks old, she was hospitalized for eight days due to complications from RSV. It was a frightening experience for our family and one I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Luna became increasingly congested, and we were worried. Then, after vomiting, things got worse, to the point where she could barely breathe and was pale. We called 911 and she was transported to a hospital that was an hour away. RSV was taking a serious toll on her, and she needed a higher level of care than could be provided at our local or regional hospitals. We were then transported to another hospital three hours away.
While admitted, she received around the clock breathing treatments and supportive care, as there is no cure for RSV. She received excellent care, but still came home on oxygen.
Luna was born three weeks early after a traumatic delivery; she was resuscitated at birth. She had jaundice and a blood disorder that was diagnosed at birth. Just a few weeks later, she contracted a severe gastrointestinal illness that left her hospitalized for another week.
Even in her fragile state at birth and with continuous health issues early on in life, she did not qualify for a preventive RSV treatment. It is only approved for infants born pre-term and with certain underlying health conditions. I often wonder, if she’d had access to preventive treatment would she have gotten so sick?
I’ve seen the lasting effects of RSV on her. Luna struggles through colds and infections and takes weeks to recover from small colds. Her experience is always worse than that of her siblings. I am scared she may always struggle with these complications from RSV.
I share our family’s experience this October, during RSV Awareness Month, to help parents understand that RSV should be taken seriously. And while there is a preventive treatment available to a small subset of infants, new innovations are in the pipeline that could offer protection to every single infant. I hope, when those interventions are approved, there will be an aggressive approach to ensure all infants have access to prevention from this very scary virus.