New research shows RSV has become less dangerous for infants

Posted at 7:10 PM, Dec 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-10 00:22:19-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a virus that for decades has been known as dangerous and even deadly.

Now, new research from the University of Utah shows infant deaths from RSV has become rare.

"Parents always worry about RSV -- it can be a serious infection because it affects the way children breathe. But what we know now is that it causes very fewer deaths than what was estimated in the past,” said Carrie Byington, professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah.

Byington conducted a recent study on RSV.

"We looked at over 850,000 hospitalizations for RSV and had two large data sets and found identical results in both of the data sets," Byington said.

And the results are good news for parents and their children.

"A disease that used to kill maybe as many as 4,500 children per year, we now believe kills about 40 children per year. That's a big difference and a safer world for children," Byington said.

Byington said last time those numbers were examined was in the 1970's. She attributes the drop to improved medical care and treatment.

"It's just great news for parents and we're happy that these two large data basis really showed us the same thing that RSV is a common infection but you're not likely to die," Byington said.

Byington explains that children who are prone to complications from the virus have similarities.

"A small number of children will die each year due to RSV, about 40-45, and these children have serious chronic medical conditions and usually more than one medical condition,” Byington said.

Nearly every child in the United States will come down with the virus by age 3. Signs of RSV include runny nose, cough, congestion, itchy eyes and a fever.

"If they're seeing these symptoms and it's interfering with their child's ability to feed or they're concerned about their breathing, then they should contact their pediatrician," Byington said.

Byington hopes this information will also help focus research to getting vaccines to help children who are at most risk for complications from RSV.