Tarzana mom recounts 18-month-old son's harrowing battle with respiratory virus

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Thursday, October 20, 2022
Tarzana mom recounts 18-month-old son's harrowing battle with RSV
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A Tarzana mother recounted her 18-month-old son's harrowing battle with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a surge of which is beginning to put a strain on hospitals.

TARZANA, Calif. (KABC) -- A Tarzana mother recounted her 18-month-old son's harrowing battle with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a surge of which is beginning to put a strain on hospitals.

New warnings have been issued about the spike in cases of the illness, the number one cause of hospitalizations for babies. Pediatric medical centers around the country are reporting a significant influx of patients.

And it's coming in with a vengeance. Experts say it's an unusual surge at an unusual time.

A common childhood virus took Amanda Bentley by surprise.

In an interview, she told ABC7: "When I took him to the doctor, she said, 'I think I'm going to send you to the ER' and I'm like, 'What?!"

Her 18-month-old son, Joshua, had oxygen levels that had dipped dangerously low. He was in distress. Doctors say the culprit was RSV.

"It was just a shock," Bentley said. "I'm just looking at her and saying, 'What do you mean? I just figured it was a normal cold.'"

After a week in the hospital, Joshua could still be heard wheezing.

"Really high fevers, difficulty breathing, having to work really hard to breathe," his mother said. "He would cough until he vomited."

"There is an upsurge in RSV cases," said Dr. Cesar Chavarria with Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. He said the virus affects the respiratory tract. He usually starts to see cases in February. But this year, it's starting early and strong.

"A lot of babies are hospitalized and so it is becoming a problem," Chavarria said. "The health department is concerned."

RSV symptoms usually resolve in two weeks. In rare cases, it can be fatal if the infection progresses to pneumonia. It can also be harmful to the elderly and immunocompromised. When everyone was masking and staying apart, doctors say, RSV cases were nearly non-existent.

"This year it is making up for lost time. We're seeing a lot of cases," said Chavarria.

The only treatment is supportive care. Researchers are working on a vaccine for children, but for now being careful means lots of hand-washing and staying away from others who are sick.

"Don't take babies to parties," Chavarria said. "Not a lot of kisses. Not a lot of strangers holding or touching or kissing the baby."

Bentley and her son are going into week two at the hospital. She warns other parents not to brush off lingering or worsening symptoms.

"Awareness is important. RSV and rhinovirus are really bad this year," said Bentley.