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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

RSV Season Isn't Over Yet

By February 22, 2012

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Audrey Diehl - Photo courtesy of the Diehl FamilyAs many people are waiting to see what this year's flu season is going to do, it is important to remember that cold and flu season isn't just about the flu. There are a lot of other viruses out there that get kids sick this time of year.

A worsening outbreak of RSV at Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD is a good reminder that it is still RSV season. South Dakota is reportedly experiencing a particularly severe RSV season, with at least two deaths, and an increase in cases in recent weeks. The outbreak is so bad that the hospital has had to find more beds for sick children, opening an auxiliary wing.

This isn't a big surprise though. Each year, RSV causes about 75,000 to 125,000 hospitalizations to infants less than 12 months old. And as most people know, premature babies are at an especially big risk for complications from RSV.

Fortunately, premature babies and other high risk children can be given Synagis, a monoclonal antibody against RSV, to help reduce their risk of getting RSV.

Unfortunately, not all children who should get Synagis have an easy time getting it. This was the case for Audrey Diehl, who was born prematurely at 25 weeks gestation in Duluth, Minn. After spending nearly three and a half months in the NICU, Audrey was denied insurance coverage for Synagis, even though she clearly met the AAP guidelines for which children should receive RSV prophylaxis.

So instead of just going home and being able to concentrate on taking care of their baby, the Diehl's had to worry about RSV.

"When I first learned that Audrey may not get Synagis, I was angry, but more than that I was terrified. While in the NICU the doctors and nurses did a great job educating us on RSV and the potential complications Audrey could have if she got it. We were told by her doctor that she could die from it if she got in her first year. So thinking that she may not get Synagis had me in tears and sick with worry."

Although it took several weeks of calls from her pediatrician, healthcare workers from the hospital, and even help from their family and friends to get their insurance company to approve the coverage for Synagis, Audrey was able to get her first Synagis shot before the start of RSV season last year. And she made it through her first RSV season without getting RSV, something her parents would like to make sure other parents have the chance to do too.

They might need to start in South Dakota. In every news report about how bad their RSV season is, there is not one mention of Synagis for high risk children. One article goes so far as to say that "The problem with RSV is that there is no prevention."

Unfortunately, more often than not, the real problem seems to be that Synagis doesn't always make it to the high risk infants who need it.

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