RSV is especially dangerous for premature babies. Preterm babies have an immature immune system and an underdeveloped respiratory system, which may favor severe infections. Doctors remind you that free immunoprophylaxis is available and must be given to premature babies as soon as possible. – Let’s not wait until the end of October – appealed professor Ewa Helwich, a national consultant in the field of neonatology.
In Poland, the season of increased RSV cases lasts from October to April. This year, however, in many countries around the world, including our country, the RSV virus started to be active at the beginning of August.
– While the restrictions were in force, the spread of the coronavirus and other viruses was limited, but the summer months during which the restrictions were lifted meant that the RSV virus attacking the respiratory tract emerged faster than usual – explained Professor Ewa Helwich, national consultant in the field of neonatology .
Premature babies are most susceptible to infection with RSV. The virus can cause severe disease in them, which must be treated in a neonatal intensive care unit in hospital. It is related to the underdeveloped respiratory system and immature immune system of premature babies. The lung volume of premature babies born at 30 weeks of gestation is three times smaller, and the lung area four times smaller than the volume and size of a full-term baby. At birth, premature babies are 10 times more likely to develop lower respiratory tract infections than babies born at full term.
RSV virus. Immunoprophylaxis is the most effective method
The basis of protection against RSV is to avoid people with symptoms of infection, take care of hygiene and wash your hands before each contact with your baby. Since there is no vaccine against RSV, the most effective method of protection against infection is the administration of immunoprophylaxis, i.e. ready-made antibodies.
– Prepared antibodies, which are administered as immunoprophylaxis, immediately protect the child against RSV, inhibiting its action. They are administered intramuscularly, but it is not a vaccine. The administered antibodies are immediately ready to block and inactivate the RSV virus – explained the neonatologist, president of the Coalition for Premature Foundation Prof. Maria Katarzyna Borszewska-Kornacka.
As she added, the protective effect of antibodies against RSV is temporary and lasts about 30 days after administration of the drug. Therefore, in the season of increased morbidity, the administration of antibodies must be repeated every four weeks, and only five doses of the preparation provide sufficient protection.
Immunoprophylaxis is very important for premature babies, as RSV infections can lead to severe breathing disorders in these babies, the need for artificial ventilation with a respirator, and consequently to hypoxia and the risk of further health complications. Complications may include pneumothorax, otitis media, and wheezing and airway responsiveness may persist for 5-8 years after acute RSV infection.
Doctor: let’s not wait until the end of October with this
– I appeal to all parents of premature babies not to delay giving their children the first dose of immunoprophylaxis. Let’s not wait until the end of October, because the RSV virus is very dangerous for premature babies and it is worth protecting the baby from it as soon as possible – she emphasized.
– The return of a premature baby to the intensive care unit is always a step back in its development. Although the problem of separating parents of premature babies from their children is not as big as at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, it is still worth doing everything to prevent re-hospitalization – emphasized Prof. Borszewska-Kornacka. As she pointed out, the stay in the hospital is unnecessary stress not only for the baby, but also for its parents. – I appeal to all parents of premature babies who are eligible for the administration of antibodies to come to the immunization points – she added.
Immunoprophylaxis is carried out by 67 accredited neonatal centers throughout Poland. They are prepared so that the immunization visit is safe for the child and its parents, therefore parents should not give up immunoprophylaxis for fear of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
From October 1, children born before the 33rd week of pregnancy can benefit from free immunoprophylaxis under the drug program financed from the budget of the Ministry of Health. These are premature babies who are under the age of one and were born up to the 28th week of pregnancy (28 weeks and six days) or were diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and premature babies who were under six months of age and were born between 29 and 32 one week of pregnancy (32 weeks and six days).
Pediatrician: three-quarters of the ward occupied by children infected with RSV
– This year, slightly earlier than usual, we observed an increased number of infections caused by the RSV virus and many children are hospitalized in neonatal and pediatric wards – pointed out prof. Ewa Helwich.
As pointed out in an interview with TVN24, pediatrician Tomasz Szatkowski from the children’s ward in Gorzów Wielkopolski, last year children with RSV could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
– Even before covid, these infections were, but were not, in the state they are in now. Last week, we had 40 children in the 25-bed ward, three-quarters of which were occupied by children infected with RSV, he said.
RSV virus. Symptoms
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is responsible for 70 percent of respiratory infections in children under 2 years of age. It is especially dangerous for premature babies – for this group it can be more dangerous than the coronavirus.
In older children and adults, RSV causes symptoms similar to a cold, such as runny nose, sore throat, and cough. As described on TVN24 by dr hab. Ewelina Gowin, med., pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist“In the youngest patients, the biggest problem is breathing difficulties. In addition to a runny nose that gives the impression of a stuffy nose, there is a cough, difficulty coughing up mucus, and difficulty breathing.” She added that when parents notice that the smallest children have eating problems, are apathetic, develop a fever, they should be examined by a doctor personally.
Doctor: if the number of breaths per minute exceeds 60, an emergency visit to the hospital is urgently needed
– If we see that the child is breathing in with great effort, the intercostal spaces are clearly deepened during the breath, the child moves when breathing with the wings of the nose, it means that it is bad. (…) – Typically such wheezing is audible – explained Dr. hab. Ernest Kuchar, an infectious disease specialist from the Medical University of Warsaw, Luxmed expert.
As pointed out by Prof. Kuchar. “The simplest measure of breathlessness in a child is the number of breaths per minute.” – If the number of breaths per minute exceeds 60, it means that an appointment is urgently needed, not in the clinic, but in the hospital, because the clinic will not help you. I will be clear that neither antipyretic drugs nor antibiotics will help in the least for shortness of breath. This is a virus that we simply don’t have any cures for, he emphasized.
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