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Health & Science

Doctors Report a Spike in Respiratory Illness That Can Cause Infant Death

a photo of a sick baby
Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, is the second leading cause of infant death.

The respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, that babies and older people can get after being around someone who appears to have a cold is not new. But it’s the second leading cause of infant death.

The Ohio Department of Health doesn’t track RSV cases because the Centers for Disease Control doesn’t require reporting of it. But Dr. Maria Mejias of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus says there have been 1,800 cases of RSV since October in her medical center alone.

"These numbers are higher compared to previous years," Majias said. "We’ve looked at the past ten years as far as data activity and this year has been very unusual."

Mejias says the illness can be deadly and she doesn’t know why there are increased incidences of RSV. She suspects the illness has mutated to create new strains. Nationwide Children’s has received a grant to develop a vaccine, but for now she says people around babies should wash their hands often and avoid kissing them.